WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - We wrap up our high school Training Camp Road Trip with our final team, the Rider Raiders. Returning just a couple offensive starters from last year, they'll have a new look, but expect the same results.
"Well every year, you've got to start over," said head coach Marc Bindel. "When the last game of the season is over the previous season, you've got to hit the reset button. You've got to go earn, everything you get you got to go earn."
It's a new season, and a new year for the Raiders. Coming into Coach Bindel's 3rd year at head coach, they lost a lot of talent to graduation, but the expectations for the season are still high.
"At Rider, the mentality is next man up," Coach Bindel said. "And so we did graduate people, but our guys in the offseason have worked really really hard. Been really impressed, this is one of the hardest-working offseasons that we have ever had. And there are guys that are hungry to go win spots and make a name for themselves. They will be unknowns going in, but you know they are confident enough to know that they are going to be known by the end of the season."
"I feel like we've got a lot of confidence this season," said senior defensive lineman Jose Barron. "We had a real good spring ball and the offseason winter workouts we did real good. Everybody got a whole lot bigger and a whole lot faster, a lot stronger."
One position where the Raiders are looking good is quarterback. They return senior Willie Cherry, coming off an ACL injury. The guy who replaced him last season, senior Deven Smith, is also back.
"It feels good," Cherry said. "You know just to come back out here coming back from an injury."
"Willie, obviously, and Devin are two of our best players," Coach Bindel said. "And so we are going to have to find ways to get them on the field at the same time. Whether that's Deven playing receiver and Willie at quarterback, or vice versa. Whatever it is, those guys are phenomenal athletes and players, so we've got to do whatever it takes to get them on the field."
On offense, the Raiders lost a big-time receiver in Texas Tech freshman T.J. Vasher, so they will need to replace his production. One of the ways Rider might do that is with the running game. Along with both QB's, they also bring back an explosive running back in Willie Phillips.
"We're still looking at receiver," Bindel said. "I've told people we've got about ten or twelve receivers that are really battling for about three or four spots. And so we're going to continue to evaluate. There have been some young guys like Tay Peterson, and even returning guys like Aaron Miller, that are battling hard every day to go win a spot."
"They are looking good, real fast," Barron said. "We've got a lot of good talent at wide receivers. Everybody kind of sleeps on them because we lost a lot of [offensive] lineman, but we have a lot of sophomores that stepped up, and they are going to get the job done for us."
"We both have our own strengths," said Phillips, who is cousins with Cherry. "You know, he's very fast; I'm very powerful. I think we can use it to help the team win."
The Raiders have some talent returning on defense and they may have to rely on the tough defense early on in the season to carry the load.
"Our D-line is very strong, and we picked up some good guys in the secondary, so we will be pretty good all around."
"First off, our defensive line, we've got a lot of team speed," Coach Bindel said. "And we're really really good tacklers. I've been very impressed with the job that our coaches have done on that side of the ball, teaching the fundamentals of tackling, and the kids have really bought in and so that's half the battle. Lining up and tackling are 90% of the battle on defense, and so if we continue to run the football and hustle, I think we are going to be really good."
If the defense can keep the team afloat as the offense shapes into form, the Rider Raiders could be in the hunt for a district title and a nice playoff run.
They open their season Friday night at 7 p.m., as they host Mansfield Legacy at Memorial Stadium.
Rider Raiders 2016 Schedule
Aug. 26 vs Mansfield Legacy, 7
Sept. 2 vs Lubbock Coronado, 7
Sept. 9 vs Amarillo Palo Duro, 7
Sept. 16 at Kennedale, 7:30
Sept. 23 at Sherman, 7*
Sept. 30 vs Wichita Falls HS, 7*
Oct. 7 at Denison, 7*
Oct. 14 BYE
Oct. 21 at Denton, 7*
Oct. 28 at Denton Braswell, 7*
Nov. 4 vs Denton Ryan, 7*