The Rider special teams didn't live up to their name in the first half Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
A week ago, the Rider defense wasn't too special for a half. On other occasions the Rider offense has scuffled during a game, and it committed three turnovers against Fort Worth Southwest.
The team, on the other hand, keeps trying to prove it's a special one as the Raiders rallied with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Southwest, 31-21.
The Raiders (10-2) advance to play El Paso Burges in the Region I-4A Division II semifinals. Burges defeated Hereford, 35-28. Rider and Burges will play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Midland's Grande Communications Stadium.
Carlos Fleeks delivered for the offense with 98 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He scored what proved to be the game-winner on a 10-yard run with 10:03 remaining.
But there was still work to do with standout receiver Robbie Rhodes playing quarterback for Southwest. He had two rushing touchdowns and passed for 170 yards.
However, on fourth down and seven with about 2:18 to play, the Rider defense caught Rhodes just in time. As he rolled to his right and turned up field, linebacker Caleb Levell tripped him up and Bradley Goldstein finished him.
Rider needed three Fleeks runs to add some insurance on a 10-yard touchdown with 1:38 to play. It was the first time all night the home fans at Joe Golding Field could breathe easy.
"It was a tough game, and some people thought we'd lose this game," Levell said. "We proved some people wrong."
Although Rhodes definitely gave Southwest a lift when he came on in the second quarter, Levell said the defense was ready.
"We were prepared and we shut them down," Levell said.
But when he was chasing the Baylor-bound wideout on the critical fourth down, "I was thinking he was fast," Levell said. "I was thinking he's fast but I wasn't going to stop. I was going to keep running and make sure he didn't make the first down."
Garfield was glad to see his team not only swarm to the ball defensively but be able to handle the circumstances. Rider allowed only one fourth-quarter play of longer than 8 yards.
"We gutted it out," Garfield said. "Our kids faced some adversity and we kept right on going."
As for Rhodes, the coach said, "I can see why he's going to Baylor. He can do it with his feet and he could do it with his arm. Very explosive!"
Garfield said his offense, which had 320 yards, was very good, too.
"The offensive line did a good job and Carlos ran the ball well," Garfield said. "Chase (London) handled the offense great and Dominic ran well when he was in there."
Thrasher had a hand injury that probably contributed to his fumbles. But he ran for 65 yards and was big on the opening possession of the third quarter when Rider went 53 yards to take a 17-14 lead. Thrasher scored on a 7-yard run, his 18th of the season, and then plowed behind the single-wing blocking set for a two-point conversion as well.
But Southwest came back late in the quarter on the arm of Rhodes. He hit DaMarcus Wilson with a 39-yard completion to key a 64-yard touchdown drive. And on third-and-goal from the 17 he hit Brashad Jones with a 16-yard pass. On fourth down Rhodes kept it for his second TD run of the night.
But the Rider defense allowed just four first downs on four possessions after that.
And Fleeks, who finished with 128 yards and his second 100-yard game in three weeks, helped the offense pull out a victory. London finished 13-of-24 for 135 yards. Davon Allison caught seven passes for 84 yards.
Brylan McCoy had five passes for 54 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
Rider's D.J. Arnold and Fred Williams, the starting safeties, had interceptions in the first half. Levell had a fumble recovery in the third quarter.
"We just clicked, one family, one team, that's what it's all about," Arnold said of the fourth-quarter comeback. "There was no doubt at all. We just know what we have to do at the right time."
It helped them overcome a first half where they mishandled a PAT snap to lose a point; had a false start and then a blocked field goal, a mistake that Arnold erased with a pick in the end zone; and had a fumble on a punt that led directly to a touchdown.
It added up to a 14-9 halftime deficit and a tough game for 48 minutes.
Southwest 0 14 7 0—21
Rider 9 0 8 14—31
R — Brylan McCoy 20 pass from Chase London (kick failed), 8:02
R — Luis Trejo 31 FG, 4:07
S — Robbie Rhodes 16 run (Rhys Ewing kick), 4:46
S — Jameion Williams 1 run (Rhys Ewing kick), 1:05
R — Dominic Thrasher 7 run (Domanic Thrasher run), 7:23
S — Robbie Rhodes 1 run (Rhys Ewing kick), 2:10
R — Carlos Fleeks 10 run (Luis Trejo kick), 10:03
R — Carlos Fleeks 8 run (Luis Trejo kick), 1:38
First downs 13 18
Rushes-yards 34-94 40-185
Passing 170 135
Comp-Att-Int 9-22-2 13-25-1
Punts-Avg. 5-31.4 2-31.5
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 5-3
Penalties-Yds. 8-74 2-10
RUSHING — Southwest, Robbie Rhodes 13-46, Jameion Williams 16-55, Devin Williams 4 — 9, Justice Adams-Jones 1-2. Rider, Carlos Fleeks 17-128, Domanic Thrasher 15-67, D.J. Arnold 1-5, Chase London 5-0, TEAM 3 — 15.
PASSING — Southwest, Robbie Rhodes 9-18-170-1, Devin Williams 0-3-0-1, Justice Adams-Jones 0-1-0-0. Rider, Chase London 13-25-135-1.
RECEIVING — Southwest, Willie Robinson 2-71, Kameron Taylor 2-36, Brashd Jones 2-15, Jameion Willimas 2-9, DaMarcus Wilson 1-39. Rider, Brylan McCoy 5-54, Davon Allison 7-84, Josh Price 1-(-3).