Bindel, Rodriguez reflect on special group

Rider falls to Aledo in semifinals

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Jenny Claus/Rider Media

Rider coach Marc Bindel addresses the Raiders after its 55-28 loss to Aledo.

Meghan Helton, Copy Editor

DENTON – The 2020-21 football season reluctantly drew to a close for the Rider Raiders in a hard-fought battle against the Aledo Bearcats.

With the score standing 55-28 in the final seconds of the game, many Raider tears fell at the sounding of the buzzer.

“This game was just up and down,” Rider head coach Marc Bindel said. “And when you’re up against a team like Aledo, you can’t have mistakes. We had a couple special teams mistakes. But all that aside, that’s just coach-speak. We played hard and they were just the better team tonight.”

Quarterback Jacob Rodriguez agreed with Bindel, saying that most of the team’s mistakes were caused by “self-inflicted wounds.” Rider trailed 21-14 midway through the third quarter, but the Bearcats scored three quick touchdowns after that. 

“There were just a couple bursts there on offense where we made mistakes with our special teams,” Rodriguez said. “But we gave all of our energy and all of our heart. It just came down to physical mistakes.”

Several players and coaches shed tears as their upperclassmen gave parting words of love and appreciation in a final huddle. For most of them, this game marked the end of their football careers. 

“This is a group we’ve been coaching since the seventh grade,” Bindel said. “They were the first group that we were allowed to go over to the junior high and get to know. They’re great young men, they work hard, they’re fun to be around and they’ve done so much for this school. We just love them.”

Rodriguez has already committed to the University of Virginia and has graduated early to join their football program. However, there were still tears in his eyes as he reflected upon his high school football career.

“It’s not even about X’s and O’s anymore, they’re hands-down the best friends I’ve ever made,” Rodriguez said as he looked on at his teammates. 

Through the stress of a pandemic, the loss of a teammate and the defeat of season-ending injuries, the Rider Raiders have remained strong. 

Over the past three years, they have advanced to the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once, which is a feat no one can deny. But what matters most to our boys isn’t the trophies, it’s the bonds they’ve made to get them.

“Family first, last and always,” Rodriguez said. “All those guys… I’ll never forget them.”