The Rider defense has carried the load for a lot of the season as the offense was hit with injuries.
But the defense needed and got a little pick-me-up from the offense in Friday's 44-26 victory over Dunbar.
It was the second-highest point total the Rider defense had given up all year and the most since the season opener. No 4A team had scored more than 22.
The Raiders allowed 20 in the first half and then a fourth-quarter touchdown after going up 44-20.
But the defense did seal it with a two-point conversion stop, keeping it a three-score game and then another stop after a successful onside kick.
It was enough for the Raiders (9-2) to win their third straight game and advance to take on Fort Worth Southwest (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The Raiders were tested with inside runs and downfield passing plays against Dunbar, which had four plays of 20 or more yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run.
Rider allowed touchdown drives of 49, 75 and 62 yards in the first half.
"We were shocked when we went in at halftime," Rider coach Jim Garfield said. "Bradley Goldstein said, 'Coach we don't have our swag, we have to get our swag back.'
"It's amazing what kids can get accomplished when they refocus themselves on what needs to happen. We were making some mistakes. But the kids knew what they had to do when they came back out after halftime. Our kids are winners. They're not going to allow what happened in the first half to affect them in the second half."
And they didn't. The Raiders were up to the challenge in the second half, holding Dunbar to one score and 86 yards.
"I think the first half we were a little jittery," junior defensive end Dylan Williams said. "But in the second half we executed better.
"But we got a home game and I'm excited. It's exciting being able to come home and have all our fans and a big crowd."
Goldstein led Rider with 14 tackles, increasing his team-leading total to 132. He made a big fourth-down stop against the quarterback and was in on a key play against a wingback trap on a third-down play.
D.J. Arnold had six tackles and was in on both turnovers the defense created. He had his team-leading sixth interception, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. His interception and 22-yard return had set the Raiders up with a golden chance at the Dunbar 28-yard line. But the Raiders followed with a lost fumble, their only turnover of the night.
The Raiders allowed just six pass completions in 16 attempts, but did give up two big ones — 37 and 27-yarders — to Dunbar wideout Stepfawn Hughes. Amani Colbert had an end zone breakup, but it was followed by a 5-yard touchdown run right up the middle.
Trey Parker led the Rider defensive linemen with seven tackles including a forced fumble. That was recovered by Arnold and led to a field goal by Luis Trejo.
Linebacker Josh Haisten had nine tackles and could pass the century mark against Southwest. He is second on the club with 94.
Garfield said the key to the second half was more pressure. Cody Ribble, Sam Scribner and Williams all registered sacks in the game. Williams and Brayden Burgess were there quite a few more times only to see slippery quarterback Dan Harris get rid of it somewhere.
Tanner Weir kept his average of a breakup per game with one and Fred Williams (seven tackles) also knocked away a pass.
Weir averaged 19.3 on four kickoff returns and Brylan McCoy had a 20-yard punt return, averaging 13 on two attempts.
Southwest advanced with a 7-0 win over Everman on Thursday.
Tickets: The pre-sale tickets are available this week at Rider High School and are $4 for students and $6 for adults. The tickets at the gate at Memorial Stadium will be $8.