Nine years ago, when Scott Ponder left Petrolia to be head coach at Rider, I had to ask him, "Why in the world would you do that?"
Ponder had just won a state championship at Petrolia in 2002 and had several pretty good athletes coming back the next year.
Rider hadn't had a winning season since 1995, and in my opinion was a coaching graveyard.
Ponder knew better.
He took the Raiders two rounds deep into the playoffs his very first year. It was the first of six straight postseason appearances, including going four rounds deep into the playoffs three times.
December football became a tradition at Rider High.
Then when Ponder left Class 4A Rider to be the coach at Class 3A Iowa Park after the 2009 season, I once again asked: "Why in the world would you do that?"
The Hawks hadn't had a winning season since 2004.
Ponder took Iowa Park to the playoffs his first year, and I thought here we go again. The Green would be Mean again.
But the Hawks followed that 8-3 season with back-to-back 1-9 seasons.
Rider went four rounds deep into the playoffs the first two years after Ponder left and this year the Raiders are in the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
So I just had to ask him once again: "Why in the world would you do that?"
"I guess I'm a crazy man," Ponder jokingly answered this week.
Then he got serious.
"I was tired of the choice system," he said. "I loved working with Kenny (Catney), but I was frustrated with the limitations in our system. The system needed to be revamped."
Luckily for the Raiders, there was a really good coach waiting in the wings.
Defensive coordinator Jim Garfield took over the head coaching job and retained many of the assistants whom Ponder had hired.
Gar has taken the Raiders one round further than Ponder. But the Iowa Park coach is not green with envy over Rider's success.
"The coaches at Rider have really done a great job to get these kids where they are. It's harder for Rider coaches to get their kids to the state semifinals than it is for most other coaches in this state," Ponder said. "It's not an even playing field. There is more to overcome in Wichita Falls that most other places."
Ponder said these Raiders are probably not the most talented team Rider has had this century, but talent is not the only reason that teams have success.
"Some of it has to do with good parental support and having good, smart kids," he explained. "This group has blended well. Coach Garfield and his staff have been able to pull it all together.
"And after losing their starting quarterback, it's amazing what they have done because when you go deep into the playoffs, sometimes it's only a small mistake that can kill you."
He should know. Ponder's Raiders lost by just five points to Aledo, three to Frenship and two to Everman in three fourth-round games.
Although Ponder thinks he has a lot of good young players in Iowa Park and expects success in the future, he admits he still misses the players at Rider.
"They have some really, really good kids. It was hard to leave them," he said.
But with what Gar has done with them these past three seasons, I doubt those kids are missing Ponder.
Sports Editor Nick Gholson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-720-3447.