DENTON, Texas -- Denton Ryan had great defenses on its state title teams in the early 2000s.
Ryan's defense this season might be even better.
The unit continued its destruction of 4A offenses in a rematch against Wichita Falls Rider on Saturday, leading Ryan to a 46-15 win at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in the Class 4A Division I Region I final.
Ryan (14-0) advances to play Wylie (11-3) at a time to be determined on Saturday at SMU's Ford Stadium.
"There's nothing else I can say about them," Ryan running back Kaylon Alexander said of his team's defense. "I feel like we have the best defense in the state of Texas."
Ryan's defense took control from the opening kickoff. Rider's offensive line, not hurting for size or strength, simply collapsed as soon as the ball was snapped against a Ryan defensive front led by Mario Edwards, Ty Hook and Damon Medcafe.
Rider's running backs were routinely met by multiple Ryan defenders before even reaching the line of scrimmage.
Of Rider's six first-half drives, five were three-and-outs and one ended in a fumble. Rider had 33 total yards at halftime.
"It's as good as defense as we've had and I've had the fortune to coach," said Ryan head coach Joey Florence.
Meanwhile, Alexander helped his team run up the score, finishing with 118 yards and two touchdowns, 111 of which came in the first half. Ryan led 17-0 at the break.
Ryan did a masterful job playing field position in the first half. Rider (9-5) punted into a stiff wind in the first quarter, setting up short fields for Ryan's offense.
"That causes a lot of concern when the head coach does that [takes the wind instead of the ball]," Florence said. "I wasn't sure I was making the right decision, but that's a belief in our defense."
If the game wasn't over by halftime, it was shortly after the second half began. After a quick three-and-out by Rider, Jerrick Harvey blocked the punt and Medcafe returned it two yards for a touchdown.
After Ryan defensive back Jonny Paramore's eighth interception of the year on Rider's next drive, Craig Moore scored on a 3-yard touchdown.
Rider took a safety on its next drive. Quarterback Nash Knight hit Sam Johnson for a 54-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession, ballooning Ryan's lead to 40-0 midway through the third quarter.
"The blocked punt kind of turned the game around," Florence said. "We worked on that all week. We'd gotten a few of those this year. We drew it up right and worked out good."
Backups took over for Ryan after that, allowing Rider to score two touchdowns.