The Denton Ryan Raiders lived up to their billing Friday, rolling past the Sherman Bearcats, 53-19, in District 5-5A action at Bearcat Stadium.
Spencer Sanders threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, two to Gabriel Douglas, and Tra Smith rushed for two scores as the Raiders (7-0, 3-0) kept their perch atop the standings.
Sherman’s Nathaniel Omayebu rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown, but was held to just 20 yards after the first quarter. Ryan put the game away with 32 consecutive points after Blaise Bentsen’s 9-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Bentsen finished 5-of-10 passing for 50 yards and ran 14 times for 17 yards.
Despite the loss, Sherman (4-4, 2-2) remained fourth in the district standings going into its bye week, but Bearcats head coach J.D. Martinez was more concerned with the breakdowns that allowed Ryan to pull away over the second and third quarters.
“You don’t want to take it as a litmus test or anything like that,” he said. “There are no moral victories. I totally agree with the whole idea about moral victories. Either you win or you lose.
“We went toe-to-toe with these guys. Did we lose the game? Yeah, we did. They’re a great football team and they got after us tonight. We made too many mistakes to overcome.”
Sanders finished 16-of-26 passing with touchdowns of 14 yards to Jamarion Robertson and 37 yards to Chritauskie Dove in the first quarter. Sanders hit Douglas for scores of 2 and 21 yards in the second quarter.
Douglas finished with seven receptions for 104 yards, Robertson had six catches for 140 yards and Dove caught three passes for 63 yards as Ryan gained 376 of its 470 total yards through the air.
Ryan took the opening kickoff 59 yards in 11 plays for Smith’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run. Omayebu answered with a 68-yard scoring run to tie it before Sanders hit his first two TD passes to give the Raiders a 21-7 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
Omayebu popped a 35-yard gain late in the first quarter to set up Bentsen’s score on the second play of the second quarter before Ryan took over.
“I feel like it was moreso mental errors than them making the play,” said Omayebu, who had 21 carries. “They’re a good football team, not doubt, but a lot of mental errors. I felt like we could have been locked in a little bit better.
“But that game doesn’t define us. We’re still worried about getting to the playoffs, getting that edge back. We’ve got to bounce back. We have a bye week to recoup. We’re just going to let this one go.”
Ryan’s onslaught began immediately after Bentsen’s score, which got Sherman within 21-13. The Raiders blocked the extra point and T.J. Walker returned it 97 yards for two points. Douglas’ TD receptions pushed the lead to 37-13 midway through the second quarter.
Martinez said Sherman hampered itself repeatedly with long-yardage situations over the last three quarters.
“(Offensive coordinator Derek) Thompson was put in a hot spot, calling plays on first-and-15 or first-and-20 or second-and-17,” Martinez said. “Those were tough calls.”
That issue was compounded by poor field position with Sherman starting five series inside its own 20-yard line. The Bearcats average starting position against Ryan was their own 15.
“It was horrible,” Martinez said. “We were backed up all night. We definitely didn’t help ourselves by flipping the field.”
Meanwhile, Ryan’s average starting field position was the Sherman 47 with four series starting inside the Bearcat 30. Punts of 17 and 5 yards set the Raiders up for scoring drives of 37 and 21 yards. Two fumbles gave Ryan the ball at the Sherman 26 and 7.
A bad punt snap by Sherman resulted in a safety with 4:08 left in the third quarter. Smith returned the free kick to the Bearcats 5 and Ryan’s Emani Bailey, who rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries, scored on the next play. Smith scored from 8 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter two plays after Sherman’s second turnover.
Gage Smith recovered a fumble and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown with 8:59 to go in the game.
Austin Bindel led Sherman with 10 tackles and recovered a fumble. Casey Hunter added eight tackles for Sherman with Devante Clayton and Smith each making seven. Clayton also recovered a fumble and Smith had two pass breakups.
While Sherman took its lumps, defensive back Ben Cross said the Bearcats will benefit from facing a team of Ryan’s calibre.
“They’re on top,” Cross said. “When you get ranked like that, you’ve got to be pretty good. To play a team like that lets us know where we have to be if we want to win it all.
“We know we’re probably not going to play another team like that for the rest of the year. That sets the bar.”