DENTON, Texas — This game has been circled on the calendar since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moment the UIL Realignment came down, on the morning of Feb. 3, placing Frisco Lone Star and Denton Ryan in the same district, everyone around the state knew these two teams would battle for a district title.
A rematch of last year's state semifinal, there was little doubt it would be a terrific matchup. It was just a matter of when and where.
Tonight in Denton is the answer.
Denton Ryan is ranked No. 1 in the state and is the prohibitive favorite to win a state title this year in 5A-Division I. The Raiders are 8-0, 6-0 in District 5-5A Division I, and utterly loaded with talent. The Raiders sport no fewer than seven players on the defensive side of the ball alone, who are Division I caliber football players.
Five-star defensive end Ja'Tavion Sanders leads the way, along with a quartet of four-star prospects -- CB Billy Bowman, CB Austin Jordan, DT Bear Alexander, and LB Anthony Hill. And two three-star prospects round out the defense, with LB Anthony Hill and DB Ty Marsh.
The Raiders basically run a Division I defense out on the field on Friday nights, and say, "go ahead, try to score on us."
But 9th-ranked Frisco Lone Star (5-2, 5-0 Dist. 5-5A DI) has an offense that could be up to the task. Quarterback Garret Rangel is a second-year starter as a junior, and posted 50 touchdown passes last season.
He's got another 20 touchdowns this year, against just one interception, in Lone Star's seven games this season. And between WR Ashton Jeanty, RB Jaden Nixon, and WR Trace Bruckler, Rangel has the weapons he needs to do some damage.
On the flip side, Denton Ryan's offense features some of the same names we spotlighted on defense. Ja'Tavion Sanders and Billy Bowman are, in addition to their defensive prowess, exceptional wide receivers.
There's a reason why they're rated the No. 2 and No. 3 athlete prospects in America, according to 247sports.com, respectively. Quarterback Seth Henigan can sling it around the yard, posting 22 touchdowns on the season, in leading his team to the precipice of a sixth consecutive perfect regular season. And Ke'Ori Hicks can hurt you in the run game.
Lone Star's defense is, just as it was last year, one of the best in the state. Linebackers Blake Gotcher and Alessio Russolillo can create havoc, cause turnovers, and run sideline-to-sideline. Junior rover Fogo Sokoya is an explosive athlete who can make plays in a variety of ways.
And Lone Star has the secondary to match up with Ryan's receivers, between CB Noah Bolton and safety Brandon Spencer. Lone Star's defense is a splash-play unit, recording 12 interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 26.5 sacks in their seven games this season. That's an average of over two turnovers and nearly four sacks per game.
The district championship in 5-5A Division I is on the line, and you can watch the game live on the WFAA YouTube channel. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., and pre-game coverage begins at 6:50 p.m.