WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Friday the Rider Raider soccer team will hit the field for the Region I-5A Semifinals against El Paso Del Valle.
First-year head coach Dustin Holly is making the most of a chance at his alma mater.
Until Josh Hill made the surprising announcement he was leaving for Dripping Springs last summer, Holly had no idea he'd be coaching the Raiders, or even boys at all. After all, he was a girls coach at Texarkana Texas High.
"I always thought it would be on the girls' side," Holly said. "I figured I would be out in Texarkana, build that. And then one day maybe when coach [Wiersema] on the girls side retires or moves on, I would maybe try to get back here and do that.
"But when this opened up, it was like, 'I'm just going to take a chance at it, and I would love to be back home.' Never thought it would be open."
He admitted at the start of the year he just wanted to make the playoffs in his debut season. He's done a bit more than that, even as it still feels a bit surreal.
"This has been just a special time, being back home," he said. "Being back in the locker room I grew up in, now I'm in the office where I used to sit and talk to Catney forever."
It was certainly an adjustment for the players, after 8 successful seasons under Hill. But they've gotten comfortable.
"At first we thought he was kinda quiet, and it was different not having our old coach here," said sophomore Hagan Sanchez. "But we've really grown on to him, and we really like him now."
"He's a great coach to play underneath," said junior Rylan Havins. "I mean, just doing this for him is so special. And you can tell by the way he coaches us, and the way his emotions -- I mean even after last game he came and was in tears because he was so excited for us."
Now the Raiders are certainly not happy just to be here. They're looking to keep playing another week.
"It's going to be a good, a long weekend," Holly said. "It's going to be a tough weekend. But if I look up Saturday night and we're going to Austin, it's not going to surprise me, and it may not surprise any of them, either."
The Raiders hit the field Friday at 5 p.m. at Memorial Stadium facing Del Valle, who fell to Wichita Falls High School in the regional final last season.