Faculty focuses on moving 50-year rivalry from streets to football field

Glory. Triumph. Spirit. Over the years, Rider High School and Wichita Falls High School have battled it out, competing for bragging rights as the winning high school for the year.
The reason? When Rider was founded, it split Wichita Falls High School in two, and half of the students transferred to the new school. Then the rivalry began.
“It was almost like a kind of civil war,” science teacher Stacie Martin said. “It was kind of like a fight between family members, and then it got to be the young upstart school that kind of put the old guard to the test, and from the time that [Rider] began, Old High’s reign as state champion and football powerhouse kind of came to a screeching halt.”
The rivalry grew fiercer as the years passed. Students got involved in pranks against the other school, vandalizing property belonging to both the school and its students. A growing problem was created by students seeing the rivalry as an opportunity for mischief.
“It’s just trying to create a situation of controversy,” Martin said. “When the game is over you should make the rivalry, ‘Hey we beat you!’ and end it with that, because remember these people are still your friends, the people you go to church with, or your next-door neighbors.”
Nowadays the original reason for opposition is unknown to the majority who participate in these shenanigans.
“Anytime you have a high school branch off and open another one, there’s going to be an intense thing there because everyone knows each other, but eventually they’re not even sure why they hate each other anymore,” band director Loy Studer said.
Moving the rivalry from the streets to back in the game where it belongs has been a main focus of the school administrators, teachers, and coaching staff over the past few years to improve the school’s atmosphere and result in a healthier rivalry. Constant reminders and enforced punishments from them have helped to somewhat diminish the vandalism levels.
“The coaches have had a lot to do with it,” Martin said. “They set the tone and encourage the athletes to behave and represent the school well, and I think the student body is really responsive to what the coaching staff does, and they will follow suit and leave it on the field.”
Fan Fest was created this year as a form of pep rally for all the schools in WFISD to come together and support all of the athletes, bands, cheerleaders, and dance teams in hopes to bring the city together despite the rivalries.
“It provided an opportunity for everybody to showcase their different talents, and they did it in a spirit of friendship, and the coaches seemed to present a united front saying,’These are all our teams, and we should root for all our teams,’” Martin said.
One thing is for certain though, Rider Raiders have always had school spirit and want to beat the Old High Coyotes no matter what.
“Every year when the Rider/Old High game rolls around, I become that 18-year-old kid again, and I want to beat them probably worse than anybody else in the school,” Raider Crew and cheerleading sponsor Michelle Ballard said. “I know it sounds ridiculous to people that haven’t grown up with it and have true, deep Rider Raider feelings, but for me, I’d rather do anything than lose to the Coyotes.”
In the end, it’s not only the result of the Rider/Old High game that matters, but how the teams, both on and off the field, played the game.
“Anything can happen,” Ballard said. “For both schools, nothing, not even their records, matters during that game because the intensity is such that both are going to fight to the bitter end to make sure they’re the one to come out on top.”