The Wichita Falls Rider Raiders have been hot, cold and somewhere in between so far in 2017.
After starting the season with a pair of losses, they picked up a win. And then they lost. Now going into the match-up against Denison, Rider is off to a 2-0 start in District 5-5A action and the scenario is the same as last season.
The winner will hold the upper hand in the race for the top seed in the Division II playoff bracket while the loser will be in the thick of the race just to make the postseason with some key games coming over the next couple of weeks.
Rider started the year with a 35-14 loss against Mansfield Legacy and then suffered a 42-28 defeat to Lubbock Coronado. The Raiders then beat Amarillo Palo Duro, 42-14, before losing, 62-26, against Kennedale.
In 5-5A, Rider hung on for a 24-21 victory against Sherman and then beat cross-town rival Wichita Falls, 48-6, last week.
Last week against Wichita Falls, Jorge Vargas was 14-of-16 passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns and added a touchdown run. Brandon Bolton had 17 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown and Danari Curry returned a fumble 53 yards for a score.
It was a balanced attack with 206 yards rushing and 240 passing, the Raiders were up 34-0 in the third quarter and Wichita Falls finished with 225 yards rushing and 71 passing.
Now obvious comparison is obvious, since Denison’s only 5-5A opponent so far just happens to be Wichita Falls. The Jackets won 55-21, produced 562 yards and used backups essentially the final quarter and a half. Denison led 42-7 in the third. The Coyotes finished with 176 yards rushing and 100 passing.
Against Sherman, the Raiders scored the go-ahead TD with 37 seconds left and then hung on as Sherman drove and had a throw to the end zone to win it. The Bearcats finished with four turnovers and Rider scored three of its four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Rider has found a lot of success through the air and Vargas, a second-team all-district selection as a junior, is leading that charge. He has completed 89-of-146 passes for 1,418 yards and 13 touchdowns with just a single interception. Back-up Jack Cantrell is 3-of-3 for 14 yards.
Bolton leads the team with 112 carries for 569 yards and eight touchdowns. Samuel Manuel is next with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Vargas is third with 30 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns. No other Raider has found the end zone and Riki Borders is the only other with double-digit carries — 30 for 72 yards.
Jake Edgemon is the leading receiver at 31 catches for 565 yards and six touchdowns. That’s 18.2 yards per reception and the Raiders are about big plays.
Tre’Shawn Humphrey has 14 catches for 221 yards and three TDs (15.8 yards per catch) and Kyler Spear is averaging 18.3 yards on his eight catches (219 yards).
Curry is at 13 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown and Manuel and Bolton are averaging a catch per game out of the backfield.
On the offensive line, Jonathan Ewing was a first-team all-district pick at center as a sophomore, Andrew Fry was a first-team all-district choice at guard as a junior and classmate Caleb Hughes was first-team all-district at tackle. Another senior, Peyton Ernest, was second-team all-district a year ago at guard.
Defensively, opponents have averaged 6.2 yards per carry against Rider (1,217 yards on 195 carries) and scored 17 times on the ground to go with 760 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions passing.
Through the first five games of the season, Jarrett Hilley led the team with 52 tackles, followed by Darien Boyd (36) and Julio Rabago and Jeremiah Rodriguez, who had 28 apiece.
Caleb Hughes leads in tackles for loss, with seven, and in sacks at two.
Boyd has three of the four interceptions — Jayson Myles, a second-team all-district selection at defensive end as a junior has the other — and one of the six fumble recoveries while sitting second in pass breakups (5) to the seven by Curry, who was first-team all-district at corner. Out of the 10 turnovers, seven of them have come the past two weeks.
Colsen Welch has made 13 extra points and his only field goal attempt and also serves as the punter, averaging 29.5 yards on 19 boots with a long of 42.