The Rider Raiders know it takes a lot of work to get here. This is their third straight appearance in the Region I-4A finals.
But Rider (11-2) still doesn't know what a state semifinal looks like, going 0-5 in this round over the past eight seasons. That's the history that is in front of them as they prepare to take on Frenship (12-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The last time a city team played at home in this round was in 2000 when Wichita Falls High School beat Southlake Carroll, 41-21. That was also the last time a city team made the state semifinals.
Rider has played Frenship in a regional final, back in 2006. The Tigers won that meeting at Lubbock's Jones Stadium, 20-17.
The Raiders also fell in the regional finals in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
Rider coach Jim Garfield is positive about this opportunity. He believes his team has done a good job of "trying to be 1-0 each week."
"It's something these kids are battling for," Garfield said. "The excitement of being in this round three years in a row. The seniors have been through this the other two years and they're ready to charge through the door.
"Our kids are taking care of the right here, right now. Make sure they focus in on the film and Wednesday and Thursday are big work days."
Everything about last week was far from routine — except for a third-round victory — as they traveled to Midland the day before the game, played El Paso Burges before a mostly empty stadium and then arrived home in the middle of the night. This week they'll be eating and sleeping at home.
"We'll try to stay routine with what they do in their life," Garfield said. "These kids have a life outside of football. They have to do well in pre-Cal, make sure the girlfriend is happy and keep up with chores."
One thing Garfield was sure the players won't be doing is looking at last year's game with Frenship, a 42-14 bi-district win for Rider.
"Definitely throw that out, this has all the makings of a great high school football game with a lot of excitement," Garfield said. "We want to be 1-0 at the end of the week. Just make sure you go 1-0 on Saturday afternoon."
They're hoping to have a lot of fans there cheering for that very thing. Because 1-0 this time will be unchartered territory.
■ ■ ■
Bradley Goldstein made a team-high 15 tackles last week, along with a sack, to increase his season-leading tackle total to 154.
Fred Williams was second with 11 tackles and D.J. Arnold had nine.
El Paso Burges tried just seven passes but it was enough for Brylan McCoy to make his first interception and run the team total to 20. The school record is 23 by the 1974 team.
Rider recovered four fumbles, including gaining extra possessions by recovering two squib kicks. Cody Ribble, Luis Trejo, Josh Price and Quartez Carter had the recoveries. Trey Parker and Arnold had hits to force fumbles.
On a night where it was tough to stop Burges from gaining yards, playing take-away proved to be a good strategy once again.
Rider has come up with two or more take-aways in every game this season.
■ ■ ■
Tickets: The pre-sale tickets for Saturday's game are $4 for students and $8 for adults at Rider High School. All tickets will be $10 at the gate.
Getting picky: Arnold has the season record for interceptions with seven, passing teammate Mason Stone, who had six in 2010.
300 club: Stopping the run will be another focus this week as the Raiders will see D'Maujeric Tucker of Frenship who is coming off a 386-yard game against Waco. Rider allowed a 334-yard game to Burges' Aaron Jones.
More firsts: Rider's Cody Taylor scored his first touchdown, making him the 15th player to find the end zone. It came on a 52-yard double reverse pass from Davon Allison, which was the first TD pass from Allison. Allison had scored his first TDs against Fort Worth Dunbar. Goldstein has been close many times before but Rider's leading tackler got his first sack of the year on Saturday. Freshman quarterback T.J. Vasher completed his first two passes and Josh Hatch and Hunter Robertson made their first catches.