The Rider Raiders are fresh off their best season in program history. Making it to the State semifinals where they eventually lost in an overtime heartbreaker to Lancaster. Just one game away from AT&T stadium.
This year the Raiders reload with a senior class that has the potential to get back to that State semifinal game and beyond. Coach Garfield saying he can't wait to come to practice each day because he knows how special this group can be, "yeah it was a great season we got the furthest we've ever gotten in school history. I'm proud of the kids for that i'm proud of our staff for what they did. It just saddens me that we had one more in us and we just didn't get it done." That was head coach Jim Garfield last year. In a terrential down pour last season in the state semifinal game, with one failed pass. The Raiders hopes to play for a state title were dashed. They had already lost star qb JT Barret to a season ending injury. But they somehow fought their way all the way to the state semifinals. Falling just short. But each new season comes new opportunity. Garfield saying Rider is intent on not wasting theirs, "we've talked about this as a team but what happened last year is last year. All we're looking forward to is one day at a time here with us. Our motto this year is pay the price. We've got to get back at least to the semifinals so every kid has a different focus this year."
Last season when J.T. Barrett went down quarterback Chase London stepped up to try to fill his Ohio State bound shoes. And London didn't disappoint. In a short season at qb he finished the year with over 1,000 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Marc Bindel says he's been impressed with Chase's progress, "chase has worked really hard to get ready. He was kind of thrown into the fire last year. And preformed really really well. Not only he but everybody from an offensive standpoint stepped up after J.T. Went down. But now this is chase's team, and he's taken a leadership role as far as leading by his actions and he's stepped up to lead the offnese so we're counting on big things from him this year."
Also back on offense is dynamic running back Carlos Fleeks, who spent last season literally jumping over defenders on his way to over 800 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Garfield saying Fleeks will be big for the Raiders this year, "Carlos brings a different dimension. When dominique was running the ball it was a little bit of a different style. Now that carlos is there it's a totally different style than what dominique was. A little bit faster and he's gotten stronger in the offseason so he can be a power runner for us."
Also back on offense it a core of receivers with plenty of big game experience. Led by seniors Josh Price and Devon Allison. Allison says the offense has even better chemistry than last year, "Yeah we are excited. We've got a lot of tallent and it's going to be a good year."
The defense will be equally as important for the raiders. In their 12 wins Rider holding opponents to an average of just over 2 touchdowns per game. The defense headlined by inside linebacker Bradley Goldstein. Who knotched 177 tackles last year, "we have a good defense. We had a great defense last year and we've worked really hard. We came together as a team. We've put in the work to play together. We're really like a family:"
The Raiders will have to contend in possibly the toughest district top to bottom in the state of Texas. But coach Garfield says the Raiders are once again up for the challenge, "I think everybody is contending in this district. If you're not ready to go on friday night. Somebody is going to get upset there's no doubt about it. And if you look from north to south here in the state of texas in this district, this is the toughest 4A district in the state of Texas."
And playing in the best distrct, Rider has a chance to come out as the best team. And when you ask the Raiders about goals this season, they don't hesitate to tell you where they want to end up. Holding the trophy high at AT&T stadium. The motto, pay the price. The goal, to live on throughout history as the first state champion football taem in Rider history.