WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Our final stop on the Blitz on Six preseason previews is the Rider Raiders.
The Raiders were one of two Texoma teams to get within one game of a shot at the state title.
But one of the hardest things to do in sports is repeat great performances.
Although Rider has high goals for this season, they are focusing more on the journey than the destination.
“Hey we want to get back to where we were last year and possibly go further," Rider head coach Marc Bindel said. "But it just doesn’t work like that. You really have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just try to keep improving. Like last season proved, you don’t know what is going to happen.”
“Yeah we are trying to win a state championship and we are trying to beat all these people," Rider junior QB Jacob Rodriguez said. "But you have to start out with winning your first game and your second game and we started turning that into, we have to win the day.”
You have to remember, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Raiders last season.
They lost four straight games in the non-district and came in second in the district standings.
But one reason Rider was able to turn it around was their defense.
The Raiders were giving up an average of just three touchdowns a game during their seven-game win streak and coach Bindel says they will lean on those guys again.
“I think that was the key to last year was how well our defense played," coach Bindel said as he enters his sixth season. "Offensively we struggled at times but our defense was solid throughout. Typically in the history of football, great defenses have had the chance to win.”
One thing that will help that defense is returning some big guys up front like Isaiah Wetzel and E’Maurion “Dooda” Banks.
“We always have a good D-line, but this year I want to say they are going to be better than last year," Rider junior DB Dominique Horton said. "But they still have to prove themselves and show everybody.”
“Those guys have kind of bought into it so they are flying all over," coach Bindel said. "They are led by our defensive line, those guys get most of the headlines, but really all 11 guys running around and hitting make plays.”
The offense had its moments too, especially late in the season as quarterback Jacob Rodriguez started getting comfortable in the position.
“He was a sophomore on starting on varsity," coach Bindel said. Got injured early and missed some playing time, so as he progressed and got into his fourth and fifth start, he started to get better and better. Once we hit the playoffs, he hit his stride and started to gain confidence.”
“I got hurt early in the year and I was kind of shaky coming back," Rodriguez said. "I didn’t know what I was going to be as a player and how I was going to try to lead the team. Through all that, through the seniors that helped me through it, just helped me with leadership and confidence and knowing who I am.”
Rodriguez definitely broke out of his shell last season, finishing as the top rushing quarterback in the area and a top-seven passing quarterback.
He combined for just over 2,900 yards and scored 25 times and one reason he was able to have success was some of the pieces around him.
Luckily for the Raiders, they return several skill players from that offense and now Rodriguez wants to grow even more as a leader so he can take Rider all the way to the title game.
“For me we always learn that it starts with working hard," Rodriguez said. "Those seniors last year worked hard every single day, didn’t ask any questions, didn’t do anything just put their head down and worked hard. So that’s something that we take very seriously; we do it in a little different way but we still work hard.”
Week 1: F 8/30 @ Boswell 7pm
Week 2: T 9/5 vs Azle 7pm
Week 3: F 9/13 vs Amarillo 7pm
Week 4: F 9/20 @ Brownwood 7:30pm
Week 5: F 9/27 vs Dumas 7pm
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: F 10/11 @ Abilene Wylie 7pm
Week 8: F 10/18 vs Lubbock Cooper 7pm
Week 9 F 10/25 @ Plainview 7pm
Week 10: F 11/1 @ Canyon Randall 7pm
Week 11: F 11/8 vs WFHS 7pm