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Ryle Raiders stay undefeated and ranked behind high-scoring offense

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-30 13:03:59-04

UNION, Ky. -- Ryle will score from anywhere on the football field and the Raiders can do it quickly through the air or on the ground.

The Raiders are 5-0 and ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press Class 6A Kentucky state poll. They’ve outscored foes 195-69 midway through their regular season schedule and have no intentions of slowing down Friday on the road at George Rogers Clark (1-4) in Winchester, Ky.

The philosophy, according to coach Mike Engler, is simply to score early and often.

“We go out there and we do what we do,” senior receiver Bryce Ashley said. “We don’t care what other teams do. We worry about ourselves. We go out there and get it done.”

Ryle's Bryce Ashley (17) follows a block by Jake Chisholm (21). (TriStateFootball.com)

The Raiders don’t waste any time doing what they do, either. Ryle has outscored the opposition 73-10 in the first quarter and 59-24 in the second quarter, according to Engler. The headliner on offense is Western Michigan-bound senior quarterback Tanner Morgan, who threw for 2,674 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and has already reached 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

But Morgan is surrounded by weapons. Ashley has made 31 catches for 327 yards and three touchdowns to lead a stable of five pass-catchers with at least eight receptions. Junior running back Jake Chisholm has carried 53 times for 503 yards and seven touchdowns and sophomore running back Cole Burch has added 272 yards on 49 carries and six touchdowns.

“None of this happens without our offensive line,” Engler said. “I don’t think our offensive line gets enough credit for what they’ve done. From last year to this year, it’s remarkable the difference in how much stronger and faster we are and that starts up front.”

Junior left tackle Parker Bisek, senior left guard Chase Ross, junior center Kevin Weber, junior right guard Ryan Principata and sophomore right tackle Jacob Gideon have been pushing defensive lines around, freeing Ryle skill players to make big plays.

“We’re able to move people off the ball,” Engler said. “We’re much bigger, we’re much stronger and the offensive line is getting it done. That’s why Jake is able to put up so many rushing yards. And we can’t forget about Cole. Tanner has only been sacked in five games maybe three or four times, so they’re giving him time to throw.”

Most of those throws are going to Ashley. Engler said the duo often knows what each other is thinking or is going to do on any given play.

“We’ve played a lot of football together, we’re good friends and we’ve worked hard together outside of practice in getting on the same page,” Ashley said. “I think that helps us in the game because we both have the same mindset out there.”

When the Raiders run, they have their own version of thunder and lightning runners. Burch, mostly a straight downfield runner, is thunder and Chisholm is the shifty lightning runner. Chisholm is also second on the team with 16 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown.

“Jake is probably one of the best backs I’ve seen and been around in my 20-some years of coaching at being able to read the stretch and read the zone and cut at the right time,” Engler said. “Cole is more of a hit-it-downfield quick back. They do give a change of pace when they’re in the game.”

Recently, they’ve been spending more time together in the backfield in what is called the Storm Package.

“We complement each other well,” Chisholm said. “If they focus too much on me, we’ll hit them with Cole. If they focus on Cole, we’ll get it to me. Now that we have this Storm Package, I’m assuming it’s going to mess with the defenses completely because I don’t know who they’re going to look at.”

It adds up to Engler and the Ryle coaches being able to call any play from anywhere on the field. Then if something doesn’t add up, Morgan -- a fourth-year starter -- can check out.

"They all communicate really, really well. I think that has made us offensively a pretty darn good football team,” Engler said.

After George Rogers Clark, the Raiders will play district rivals Cooper and Conner before hosting Simon Kenton -- the team that ousted them from the 2015 postseason -- and then finish the regular season at home against Dixie Heights.

“I just want to keep winning and keep making memories with my team,” Ashley said. “This only comes once. I love football and I love my team.”