Gholson: Coach Ponder not green with envy

Nick Gholson

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 gholsonn@timesrecordnews.com or 940-720-3447.

© 2012 Times Record News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 14

Boogieman writes:

If I remember hearing right, the reason why Ponder left rider was because the UIL was on to him about his recruiting. If anyone has a beef with the choice program, it should be the staff at Hirschi. Why in the world would Ponder leave rider because of the choice program? The choice program put rider football on the map. Prior to the choice program, the rider football team wasn't even on the planet.

williamwallace writes:

What a crappy article!

TXTANK writes:

in response to Boogieman:

If I remember hearing right, the reason why Ponder left rider was because the UIL was on to him about his recruiting. If anyone has a beef with the choice program, it should be the staff at Hirschi. Why in the world would Ponder leave rider because of the choice program? The choice program put rider football on the map. Prior to the choice program, the rider football team wasn't even on the planet.

Another comment not supported by facts. Here are some for you. Since opening Hirschi has made 20 post season appearance. Rider has 18 to it's credit. Hirschi has produced 18 all state players while Rider has produced 31. Hirschi has has 24 winning seasons to Rider's 31. The head to head match up is 24-11-4 in Rider's favor.I'm not certain but I'm sure the choice program hasn't been around for 20+ years. Some of those wins had to come prior to CHOICE. Hirchi's problem is that some of their best athletes aren't on the football field.

MisterD writes:

Ponder knew exactly what he was doing coming to Iowa Park. He's not only the head coach, but the athletic director. He calls all the shots - a multi-million dollar athletic complex upgrade, a new weight room at the middle school and his freshman son is the starting quarterback. He pretty much has everything his way...something he didn't have at Rider.

bobert writes:

in response to williamwallace:

What a crappy article!

I was OK with it until the last paragraph, which was completely uncalled for.

Wichita_Willie writes:

Let's face facts here. Ponder was recruiting kids right and left, all for athletic purposes. The UIL knew it but chose to look the other way, which is why the UIL is such a joke. Catney knew it as well, but then there's another problem since Catney allowed Ponder to take over as Rider's AD after he went downtown.

The choice program while it has some problems, probably wouldn't be such a bad thing if...

A. Every school campus in town was able to offer the same subjects and were treated on an equal keel.

B. We did away with busing.

As for comparing Hirschi to Rider, exactly how are you going to do that fairly. Hirschi has always had smaller enrollment figures. It would be the same as comparing Rider to some of the mega high schools in the Metroplex, Houston or Austin.

The school district has always treated Hirschi like some bastard step child. So bad some years one really has to wonder why it was built in the first place.

And speaking of building the new high schools, WFHS used to be an annual powerhouse up and thru the 1950's. Ever notice how just the second Rider opened that the WFISD started having such a hard time against other schools. I've always wondered why the school board back then ever wanted to divide up the student population like they did instead of just keeping it all as one. Just look at all the championships that we could have won in those years. Plus all this Old High-ROHO stuff has only divided our city even more.

TXTANK writes:

in response to Wichita_Willie:

Let's face facts here. Ponder was recruiting kids right and left, all for athletic purposes. The UIL knew it but chose to look the other way, which is why the UIL is such a joke. Catney knew it as well, but then there's another problem since Catney allowed Ponder to take over as Rider's AD after he went downtown.

The choice program while it has some problems, probably wouldn't be such a bad thing if...

A. Every school campus in town was able to offer the same subjects and were treated on an equal keel.

B. We did away with busing.

As for comparing Hirschi to Rider, exactly how are you going to do that fairly. Hirschi has always had smaller enrollment figures. It would be the same as comparing Rider to some of the mega high schools in the Metroplex, Houston or Austin.

The school district has always treated Hirschi like some bastard step child. So bad some years one really has to wonder why it was built in the first place.

And speaking of building the new high schools, WFHS used to be an annual powerhouse up and thru the 1950's. Ever notice how just the second Rider opened that the WFISD started having such a hard time against other schools. I've always wondered why the school board back then ever wanted to divide up the student population like they did instead of just keeping it all as one. Just look at all the championships that we could have won in those years. Plus all this Old High-ROHO stuff has only divided our city even more.

Wichita Willie.... Boogiman stated Rider wasn't even on the "Map". I was just offering information to the contrary. The choice program hasn't been in place for 20+ years hence a lot of the wins came prior to choice. If you're going to offer an opinion please take care to read and digest the cooment first. I won't debate with you over the maltreatment of Hirschi because I don't know. What I do know is that Rider & Hirschi shared the same 4A district from 1998-2003. Hirschi moved to 3A in 2004. And the result has been????? Well, you get the point. And correct me if I'm wrong but arent Denton, Denton-Ryan, Lake Dallas, Lewisville, Keller,Grapevine, Allen, Flowermound & The Colony in the metroplex area? My point is that Rider has always been on the map. Always succesful? No. We've had our highs and our lows just like every other program. Good day Sir.

Wichita_Willie writes:

TXTANK, you're reading a lot more into my comments than I intended. I'm just talking about the overall size of the school (obviously in Rider's favor over Hirschi). It doesn't matter if Hirschi was 4A with RHS or not. I taught there and we never had the enrollment that was being turned in to the UIL. That's because we had so many families from SAFB constantly turning over out there. The WFISD liked the fact that all 3 high schools were in the same conference so I'll let you figure out how a small 3A school just automatically jumped up to 4A.

And as for my comment about the WFISD schools not stacking up to the mega high schools in the Metroplex, Houston and San Antonio-Austin areas... well isn't Rider and Old High still 4A schools? They were as of yesterday, and they sure can't compete with those large Division 1 5A schools. If everyone still attended the same high school we probably could.

I don't care how many schools we have here. That's not my point. But the fact is that when the WFISD decided in the 50's to start splitting up the district, we divided while others started conquering.

Melkor writes:

The day Rider opened; they started syphoning students from WFHS. Then, Hirschi opened and did likewise from both WFHS and Rider. In 1961, WFHS won a state title. Within the next few years, Hirschi went to the semi-finals. In 1969, WFHS won the 4A state championship and returned to play in the first 4A state championship to take place in Texas Stadium. Hirschi has made several runs into the playoffs as have the Raiders.

What is happening is that Rider has become the "default" school for those families who have the "choice" of their kids going to schools with minorities or going to a school made up of mostly Caucasian kids. Hence Rider having the largest enrollment of any high school in North Texas between Amarillo, Abilene and, the Metroplex

Ask anyone in law enforcement and you will be informed that all three schools have gangs and drugs. Rider does not get the "publicity" that the other two schools get when it comes to these factors because of who sits on the school board. There’s something of a de facto "off limits" rule, unless of course, channel six gets wind of some kid from Rider selling drugs in a nearby elementary school parking lot. Whenever there is a story on "gangs," we see pictures of WFHS. But, whenever some positive achievement/improvement in the WFISD is trumpeted, we see pictures of Rider, (Home of the Raiders) on our local news. It's called guilt by association.

All of the schools "recruit" players. However, most don't see to it that parents can get jobs in the city so their all-state son can legally transfer to play where their old coach went. Nor do they hold open a spot for players who have moved out of district due to familial matters. Of course, the UIL hears these things but, just as in anything else, "It's who you know" that matters.

This leads us back to Nick’s buddy. A few weeks back, the name of Bill Green began to pop up here and there as a possible replacement for the current dictator at WFHS. Nick questioned why Coach Green's name would even be considered, since he was formally from a smaller school. What? At least Coach Green is now at Odessa Permian, a 5A school as an assistant coach. Just think of all those spectacular athletes from Odessa whose parent's might be gainfully employed in Wichita Falls! Not to mention that maybe players of great caliber would not be run off by some micro-managing coach.

One other thing, take the time to check out where the majority of head coaches from WFHS have gone when they move. With the exception of Coach Pennington, the majority of them have either moved up to a 5A school or a college-level job. And, hey! How's about them Olney Cubs? See what a GREAT coach can do?

TXTANK writes:

in response to Wichita_Willie:

TXTANK, you're reading a lot more into my comments than I intended. I'm just talking about the overall size of the school (obviously in Rider's favor over Hirschi). It doesn't matter if Hirschi was 4A with RHS or not. I taught there and we never had the enrollment that was being turned in to the UIL. That's because we had so many families from SAFB constantly turning over out there. The WFISD liked the fact that all 3 high schools were in the same conference so I'll let you figure out how a small 3A school just automatically jumped up to 4A.

And as for my comment about the WFISD schools not stacking up to the mega high schools in the Metroplex, Houston and San Antonio-Austin areas... well isn't Rider and Old High still 4A schools? They were as of yesterday, and they sure can't compete with those large Division 1 5A schools. If everyone still attended the same high school we probably could.

I don't care how many schools we have here. That's not my point. But the fact is that when the WFISD decided in the 50's to start splitting up the district, we divided while others started conquering.

Willie,

I understand your position and respect it. However, I'm not certain if Hirschi "Jumped" to 4A. I believe Rider & Old High moved down to 4A in the late 90's. In the 80's & early 90's the huskies were districted in 4A with teams like Everman, Dennison, Azle, Brownwood, etc... Hirschi was joined by Old High in 1990. Then Rider joined 4A in 1998. In 2004, Hirschi moved down to 3A to face the likes of Iowa Park, Vernon, & Graham. Burk followed to 3A in 2006. I don't doubt your claims regarding the school board & it's agendas. Yes, Rider & Old High are 4A schools as are Denton High, Denton-Guyer, Lake Dallas, and all the other metroplex area schools I mentioned in my previous post. I have to remind you that Rider competed against a 5A team in Abilene & defeated a 5A team in Denton-Ryan just this year. I know that Hirschi has produced some great students and athletes that I still consider friends to this day. Again, my original post was an attempt to defend against the claim that Rider wasn't on the "Map". I found this to be untrue. And I believe the information provided supports such a case. That is all. Good day.

Melkor writes:

As for Rider being "on the map?" Well, indeed they are. No one can take, or for that matter, should try to take away the fact that they have played above their heads this year. Not all 5A schools have great teams. Lake Dallas, Billy Ryan as well as most 4A schools in the metroplex have greater populations from which to choose. But, when the three city programs were in the same district, only one school was allowed to represent the district in the playoffs. Had that been the case this year, no school would have advanced, plain and simple.

Nick Gholson himself stated that the Raider's "path" was basically unchallenged until this past game. Being "on the map" does not warrant automatic recognition as an annual powerhouse. Even Southlake Carroll got beat twice in the same year by the 2000 Coyotes. They returned the favor the next year.

By the way, I mentioned that most former Coyote head coaches go to higher levels when leaving, I might point out that Johns went to a college as an assistant, and Chris Ross's old team played in today's semi-final game. Travis Pride went to Mansfield-Summit and has produced some good teams in what is usually a much more challenging arena. No brag, just fact.

Texanforlife writes:

in response to Melkor:

As for Rider being "on the map?" Well, indeed they are. No one can take, or for that matter, should try to take away the fact that they have played above their heads this year. Not all 5A schools have great teams. Lake Dallas, Billy Ryan as well as most 4A schools in the metroplex have greater populations from which to choose. But, when the three city programs were in the same district, only one school was allowed to represent the district in the playoffs. Had that been the case this year, no school would have advanced, plain and simple.

Nick Gholson himself stated that the Raider's "path" was basically unchallenged until this past game. Being "on the map" does not warrant automatic recognition as an annual powerhouse. Even Southlake Carroll got beat twice in the same year by the 2000 Coyotes. They returned the favor the next year.

By the way, I mentioned that most former Coyote head coaches go to higher levels when leaving, I might point out that Johns went to a college as an assistant, and Chris Ross's old team played in today's semi-final game. Travis Pride went to Mansfield-Summit and has produced some good teams in what is usually a much more challenging arena. No brag, just fact.

Just for the record I do not believe the Coyotes have ever been a 5A school. Having said that thier state championships were won in 4A which at the time was the largest classification. I am unsure of the early 50's champs classification.

Melkor writes:

The Coyotes were in 5A for a short while. I can't be certain but, I believe they went to the playoffs one of those years and was stopped in the quarterfinals by the Tommy Maddox led L.D. Bell Blue Raiders.

Wichita_Willie writes:

Hirschi started off as a 2A. When I got there it was 3A while Rider and WFHS was 4A. Hirschi then went up to 4A under "strange circumstances" which could only be described as fuzzy math when it came to enrollment numbers.

When the UIL decided to form 5A I think WFHS and Rider went 5A for a while, although I'm not sure. HHS only stayed 4A with RHS and WFHS for a VERY short time, perhaps only two years before they dropped agin during the next alignment. And it may have been that they stayed 4A when I'm thinking RHS and WFHS moved up to 5A.

I know they are back to 3A these days which means that since the UIL now has a 5A designation that Hirschi doesn't even stack up enrollment wise like they did when they were 3A out of a 4A max.

Since the UIL likes to allow football coaches an extra bonus of splitting the divisions into D1 and D2 in the playoff (which allows two state champs for each classification), I really don't know when the UIL doesn't just bite the bullet and go to a 10A classification and do away with the D1 and D2 breakdown. In all fairness if its OK with the UIL to split the conferences for football, then why is it not fair to every other sport and academic competition to have to do it the old way? If there is such a thing as 4A D1 and 4A D2 in football, then just divide it up in everything. I say this because is it fair for the small 4A schools like WFHS to have to go against Ryan or Guyer in other venues? Of course its not. Same with Rider.

People aren't stupid and the UIL is nothing but a bunch of former football coaches and ADs who think football is the only thing in Texas that deserves special consideration. It's bull and if I had my way every ISD in Texas would form their own organization and tell the UIL to go to the devil.

Keep in mind that the UIL was formed exclusively for collegiate sports and activities (its the University Interscholastic League) and they eventually dropped down and took over the Texas public schools because with the NCAA and NAIA they were no longer able to boss the Texas universities around.

Lastly here's one other big problem with the UIL, and that's implementation of new rule changes. Getting these people to implement anything new or fair is practically impossible, and even if you do get their board to vote it in you're looking at a year and a half, to two years before they ever change it. The problem here is that they forget that high school is for the kids, and these kids have four years max to compete in sports and academics. On the other hand those employed by the UIL have cushy jobs with no time limit and no sense of urgency. They totally overlook that if something needs to be changed or looked into, that it needs to be changed immediately, not two years after the fact because just look at how many kids in Texas will have graduated before these guys get off their butts and fix a problem.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

1TRN Videos

Player of the Week


See the results without voting | Poll archive



Season leaders

Passing:

1. Ben Davis, Graham (2,690Yds, 28TDs)
2. Chase London, Rider (2,389Yds, 28TDs)
3. Taylor Thomas, Olney (2,303Yds, 11TDs)
4. Zach Barton, Seymour (2,036Yds, 31TDs)


Rushing:

1. D. J. Thomas, Jacksboro (1,488Yds, 20TDs)
2. Cedric Battle, Hirschi (1,323Yds, 19TDs)
3. Michael Bishop, Electra (1,281Yds, 17TDs)
4. Marquis Askew, Burkburnett (1,254Yds, 8TDs)


Receiving:

1. Davon Allison, Rider (1,366Yds, 14TDs)
2. Bryce Reeves, Graham (1,043Yds, 11TDs)
3. Mike Clark, Olney (910Yds, 5TDs)
4. Dalton Jackson, City View (675Yds, 7TDs)
5. Cody Adams, Seymour (670Yds, 8TDs)


>> See complete stats


Tackles:

1. Zack Ballard, Olney (201)
2. Brady Brunson, Burkburnett (152)
3. Corey Luster, Vernon (135)
4. Gage Robinson, Bowie (132)
5. Elijah Hull, Hirschi (125)
6. Marcus Leija, Quanah (122)
7. Tristan Sherman, Holliday (113)
8. Garrett Johnson, Jacksboro (112)
9. Austin Martinez, Quanah (112)


Sacks:

1. Justin Silva, City View (10)
2. Treston Shepherd, Seymour (7)
3. Daytona Politakis, Nocona (7)
4. Kevin Stallcup, Bowie (7)
5. Cody Fletcher, Henrietta (7)
6. Garrett Johnson, Jacksboro (9)
7. Baltazar Castro, Seymour (6)
8. Logan Carter, Henrietta (6)
9. Tristan Willard, Nocona (6)


Interceptions:

1. David Stretcher, Jacksboro (6)
2. Brad Slade, Bowie (5)
3. Jay Ward, Bowie (5)
4. Hagen Hughes, Graham (5)
5. Mikey Feeze, Graham (4)


>> See complete stats


Passing:

1. Mitchell Parsley, Crowell (1,708Yds, 30TDs)
2. Cody McElroy, Notre Dame (1,677Yds, 33TDs)
3. Bryson Oliver, Throckmorton (1,286Yds, 27TDs)
4. Tyler Mays, Newcastle (922Yds, 18TDs)


Rushing:

1. Cody McElroy, Notre Dame (1,579Yds, 35TDs)
2. Trinity Haggard, Throckmorton (1,326Yds, 21TDs)
3. Aaron Baker, W. Christian (1,320Yds, 20TDs)
4. Chris Lewis, Knox City (1,214Yds, 19TDs)


Receiving:

1. William Hogan, Crowell (422Yds, 13TDs)
2. Nathan Wilson, Newcastle (419Yds, 8TDs)
3. Hayden Farquhar, Throckmorton (413Yds, 10TDs)
4. Michael Fantini, Notre Dame (410Yds, 4TDs)
5. Nathan Riley, Throckmorton (369Yds, 8TDs)

>> See complete stats


Team Pages

Game Night

Features