This one wasn't decided until the final two minutes.
Rider, despite an awful first half, got a 128-yard, two-touchdown night from seldom-used running back Carlos Fleeks and survived Fort Worth Southwest 31-21 in the second round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
But with each team's starting quarterback sidelined with knee injuries, we really didn't see the best of either team.
What would have happened if Rider's J.T. Barrett, an Ohio State commit, and Southwest's Wesley Harris, a Baylor pledge, had both been well? We will never know.
I'm sure Southwest would have been much better with Harris because that would have freed up superstar Robbie Rhodes, also a Baylor commit, to do what he does best — catch passes for 31 yards a pop.
Last season against Arlington Heights, Harris and Rhodes both set state records — Harris throwing for nine touchdowns and Rhodes catching eight of them.
But Rhodes only played wide receiver for one series against Rider. The only pass freshman backup Devin Williams threw to him was way behind him.
Rhodes played quarterback the rest of the way and did pretty well, just not well enough to beat 10-2 Rider.
Chase London — Barrett's backup — has seen better nights. Rider's junior quarterback completed just 13-of-24 passes for 135 yards. Twenty of those yards came on a spectacular catch by Brylan McCoy on Rider's first drive of the game.
Rider seemed determined to throw the ball against Southwest in the opening half, but the passing game just wasn't clicking for the Raiders.
That, in my opinion, was the reason Rider was down 14-9 at halftime.
So they opened the second half doing what they do best. The first time the Raiders got the ball in the second half, they drove 53 yards to take the lead.
That drive featured five runs for 37 yards and two passes for 16 — just the balance Coach Jim Garfield was looking for.
Domanic Thrasher's 7-yard path to the end zone was cleared by Bradley Goldstein and D.J. Arnold, and the Raiders regained the advantage, 17-14.
Although it's not his real position, Rhodes can play some quarterback.
Late in the third quarter, he was sacked twice by Trey Parker and Caleb Levell but shook it off and threw a 16-yard strike to Brashad Jones to the Rider 1. Rhodes then faked a handoff and ran around the right side for the go-ahead touchdown.
Southwest led 21-17 with 2:10 left in the third quarter and nail-biting time began for the Rider faithful.
After Willie Robinson Jr. dropped a Rhodes pass to begin the fourth quarter, Rider continued to pound the ball at Southwest with a 21-yard sweep to the right by Fleeks putting the Raiders on top 24-21.
It wouldn't be the last we would hear from Mr. Fleeks.
With Thrasher nursing a hand injury, Fleeks became the go-to running back. And he didn't disappoint.
"At halftime they told me I would have to step up and I did. We were down. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want my season to be over," the junior running back said.
Fleeks was having his way against the Southwest defense, carrying the ball on six of the first eight plays in a drive that took the Raiders to the Southwest 15 with just more than three minutes to play.
Thrasher, feeling he could still help out despite the sore hand, then came in and dropped the ball on the carpet.
It gave Southwest new life.
But Levell would quickly deliver the knockout punch. On fourth-and-seven, Rider's junior linebacker got a hand on Rhodes and made him stumble into Goldstein's tackle.
The Raiders had another chance to put this one out of reach.
Fleeks' 8-yard dash to the left put the game away, with 1:38 to go.
The star of this show and the future star of many shows in 2013 finished the evening with 17 carries for 128 yards.
Rhodes, the usual star of Southwest's show, had no catches for no yards.
When you get this far in the playoffs, depth can also make the difference in continuing a season and hanging it up.
Rider had more depth than Southwest.
Thank you, Carlos Fleeks.
Sports Editor Nick Gholson can be reached at email@example.com or 940-720-3447.