By the end of the evening Friday night at Happy State Bank Stadium, the Randall Raiders had conquered everything they set out to do.
They got the goat, Canyon ISD rivalry bragging rights, and most importantly, a No. 1 playoff seed.
In the last home game for Randall’s seniors, the Raiders made sure it was their house against Canyon, dominating most of the way for a 31-14 victory in a District 3-4A Division I game. With the win, Randall (7-2, 3-0 in district) not only took home the tin goat which goes to the Canyon-Randall winner every year, but also clinched a share of the district title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
It was the latest installment in the momentum the Raiders have built up since the beginning of district play.
“We want to be a fast, disciplined football team,” Randall coach Gaylon Selman said. “We’re not disciplined all the time, but we played very physical and I’m proud of (the team). Everything’s magnified in a game like this. Every little penalty is going to seem like a 15-yarder. We had some dumb penalties but luckily, we were able to overcome them.”
Topic one during film sessions this week will be the penalty issues. The Raiders were flagged 15 times for a whopping 160 yards.
But that seems like quibbling compared to the rest of the game for Randall against previously unbeaten Canyon (7-1, 1-1). While the game seemed closer than the score indicated, the Raiders never seemed like they were in trouble.
Everything was hard-fought offensively in the first half, but Randall got the most out of it, scoring on back-to-back possessions to take a 10-0 halftime lead.
Randall got on the board late in the first quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Amel Hadzisabic for a 3-0 lead. Then early in the second quarter, Dylan Ray scored on a 16-yard run for a 10-0 lead.
It didn’t help the Eagles that they were starting their third quarterback this season in freshman Noah Sanchez. They had only five first downs (two of them via Randall pass interference penalties) and 46 yards of offense in the first half.
“I think (the Raiders) controlled the line up front,” Canyon coach Todd Winfrey said. “I don’t think the head coach for Canyon coached a very good game tonight so I’ll take full blame for that. I was proud of the way the kids fought. We just never really could get the running game going and we put our defense in some terrible spots. At the end of the day kudos to Randall, they did a great job and they kicked our butt.”
Canyon drove into Randall territory twice in the first half, but the Raiders held the Eagles on downs twice. Sanchez was making his first start ever at quarterback after seeing action in the previous week’s win over Hereford.
Sophomore Boston Bell had started two games after Derrek Clements suffered a shoulder injury, but Winfrey said last week in practice Sanchez won an open competition to start at quarterback against Randall.
After forcing a Canyon punt to open the second half, the Raiders drove for Ray’s second scoring run of the game, this one from 7 yards to make it 17-0. While Canyon did fight back with a pair of second half touchdowns, the Eagles fell in too big of a hole.
On the night, the Raiders intercepted four passes, as seniors Travon McNary and Mason Gilbert each had two interceptions. Linebacker Gilbert, the emotional leader of the defense, had two fourth quarter interceptions to squash any Canyon comeback hopes.
“Obviously with the score late in the game we’re up and we know they’re going to take shots and we were in coverage to prevent that,” Gilbert said. “We can’t get comfortable, and we knew that we couldn’t and that’s what kept the defensive hold all night.”
Randall played relatively mistake free and efficiently offensively. Senior quarterback Nathan White threw an interception late in the first half, but was otherwise productive, completing 12-of-19 passes for 169 yards and two second half touchdowns to Ely Sosa and Nathan Baker, the latter of which from 13 yards concluded the scoring.
“It was definitely rewarding to go grab that goat at the end and take it back to the fans but we had to do our job every single play,” White said. “It had its ups and downs and I felt like (the Eagles) were going to get up on their pedestal for a second, but our defense stopped them and it won the game for us. The last few years we haven’t won a district championship, so to bring that here and get that gold ball and the goat back means a lot.”