According to Maxpreps.com, a national online database for high school sports, in the 2015 varsity football season, the Richland High School Rebels went 3-7. This season, the Rebels are undefeated with a 6-0 record so far and dominating each team. What does the difference of a year make in these records? Absolutely nothing, but some believe the change of division may be the reason for the team’s newly found success. Historically, Richland has been the runt of 6A football, but now a 5A school, they are the top dog in its district. Some people believe that they are only successful because of the change in division and that talent isn’t what is winning games. However, high school football classification of ranking and division is beside the point because the local Richland Hills community still shows up every Friday night, packing the stands in order to show their support for the young men on the field and unify as one commonality.
Richland High School, located in North Richland Hills, TX, opened in 1961 as the second school in the Birdville Independent School District. They have a rich history in the community of Richland Hills as the Richland Rebels or “Rebs.” The school has undergone many renovations to accommodate the growing needs in the community. With a thriving student population and a large school spirit, the current Rebels are successful in being a strong presence in student affairs and the surrounding community.
The Richland Rebel football team is somewhat new to the title of undefeated. In past years, Richland High School has been classified as a division 6A high school. In terms of athletics, football specifically, they have been unable to compete at the same level as other 6A teams making it difficult for the community to swallow and for the team. This past year, the team was reclassified as a 5A team due to the tough season they endured in 2015. This has allowed them to be a force to be reckoned with on the field every Friday night and it proves that the Rebels are one of the top dogs in the 5A conference. Some critics believe that the success is not due to talent or coaching skills, but because they are not competing against top division teams. Although, they did struggle the past year only winning four games, the believe that it is not a testament to what kind of caliber team they are this year. As a result of this criticism towards the Richland football team, they have been able to use that negative energy to generate a new mentality to their style of football that has shown their success on the field this season. Even though people are still talking about the strength of their new conference, the Rebels have not let that phase them.
While this is a valid point, it is not something that the Richland community is concerning themselves with. They are a strong, close community that is consistently showing their support on and off the field. According to TCU athletic training student, Myranda Stauch, who has been working with the team for this season, “Local businesses support Richland. They place banners at their restaurants and hang banners on the fence at the home field. The booster club is also very supportive, providing pregame meals for all the athletes, coaches, and athletic training staff.” This illustrates the importance of the football team to the fans and how it connects people together within the community. Everyone who is proud to call himself or herself a supporter of the Rebels are doing everything to make sure that the team, coaches, and athletic trainers are well taken care of and know there is always a huge support system behind them. In an interview with Star-Telegram sports, Richland QB, Trae Self commented, “You have so much support going around.” He then proceeded to thank coaches, parents, fans, and the student section. This shows that the support from the Richland community has a large impact on the players and coaches of the team.
There is something magical in the air on a Friday night before a football game. This particular game was special to the undefeated Richland Rebels. It was going to be a tough matchup between Richland and undefeated Grapevine. Each team was vying for that next win to further its undefeated season. The atmosphere of the stadium was almost electric. As a newcomer to the pageantry of Texas high school football, I was overwhelmed by my surroundings. Being from California where football is not the main focus every Friday night was truly a contrast to being a fan in the stands at this game. Everywhere that you looked, banners, a colorful student section, and moms with bedazzled shirts proved a true, deeply rooted love for the team. Fans of all ages and walks of life packed the stands to see this historical game between their beloved Rebs and Grapevine. From the team warming up before the game to the last seconds winding down on the game clock, every fan was engaged in the success of the team. It was almost as if the wins were their wins too and the losses were their losses. While the fans were there for a football game, their support didn’t end at the team. The crowd rang cowbells and held signs when the senior students from cheer, dance, and band were recognized. They cheered heartily for the cheerleaders, the dance team “The Dixie Belles,” and even the brave fathers who attempted a halftime show.
When the game officially started, the noise was deafening. I could feel the energy radiating through the crowd as the clock ran down. Even during times of struggle on the field or potential injury, the fans stood by their team, staying to the very end of the game. They didn’t want to miss one second of being a support system. While the Rebs took a lead at the beginning of the game, there was still a possibility of losing the game to Grapevine. But in true Rebel spirit, the crowd encouraged the team to keep fighting and keep believing in themselves. As the game clock ran down, the Rebels were victorious in a battle of District 8-5A.With a win of 38-35, Richland was able to add another win to their record. They improved to 7-0 for the first time since 2008 and 4-0 in district (Star-Telegram). With the toughest matchup of the regular season behind them, they do not plan to stop there but look to continue to change how people view their team as a formidable opponent. This is slightly more achievable for the Rebels due to the unwavering support from fans, coaches, parents, and fellow students.
The team and the community of Richland High School are ecstatic with the win over Grapevine, but have a bigger goal in sight. The team was humbled after the victory because they know their journey doesn’t end there. The Rebels football team realizes that a championship is at stake for the 5A conference and that the team needs stay sharp for the rest of the season. Although it was a big win for the team and the community, the team continues to put in the work on and off the field to prepare for their upcoming games against Carter-Riverside, Dunbar, and to close it off with Heritage. With the mentality and fortitude the fighting Rebels have been showing through the season so far and the community that they have surrounding the team, they will remain a tough opponent for future games and hopefully, a successful run in postseason. During the three games they have left, the team will take nothing for granted because this season is more than just winning a championship. It is about proving to the media, the critics, and even themselves that this year is their year to make a name for Richland High School and give back something great to their community, who stood by them even during the rough patches of their previous seasons.
Ultimately, the Richland High School football team is having dominating success this season, but they are still struggling with people critiquing their decision to drop to a lower conference. With a loving, passionate community behind Richland football team, it gives motivation to both the coaches and the players. Richland football knows it is more than capable of making an impact this year. As they are five games into the season and undefeated, they are taking it one game at a time and they know nothing is given to them. If they continue on their current path to success, people will change their perspective on how they view the Richland High School football program and the community that surrounds and supports them. This could give the Richland Rebels a new face to their program and a chance to become one of Texas’ high school football powerhouses in future seasons. So if you get a chance to watch some proper Texas high school football, think of Richland High School.