RIO VISTA — Despite going winless in District 6-3A Division II play, the Rio Vista Eagles still caught the eyes of league coaches.
Rio Vista had 11 players receive all-district first- or second-team accolades even after going 0-5 in league play and 2-8 overall in coach Kasey Black’s first year at the helm.
The Eagles started the season 2-3 in non-district and were a couple plays away from being 3-2. Rio Vista dropped a tough district opener against Millsap in a 14-6 decision, then the Eagles struggled down the stretch against the four playoff qualifiers from District 6-3A DII.
Black said his main takeaway from the 2019 season was the amount of support the Eagle football program has as it tries to get over the hump.
“This year showed that things aren’t going to turn around overnight,” Black said. “This is a process. But the town, the community, administration, and the kids, they’re all bought in so they understand that. I’ve never been somewhere where we had the support from superintendent, principal, and the community on down. We have a ton of support. That’s the biggest thing right now. This place really is special. It just takes getting the right group of kids together at the right time.”
Black said having 11 players receive all-district honors despite finishing last place was indicative of the steps the Eagles took this season, even if the results didn’t show up on the scoreboard.
“That just shows that other people in the district are seeing the improvement,” Black said. “I think after almost every game, I had a coach come over and when we shook hands he was like, ‘Coach, I know you’re disappointed, but you’re doing things the right way, the kids are playing hard and everything’s looking up.’ It’s just that things take time.”
Leading Rio Vista’s all-district selections are first-teamers in senior Billy Bob Bridges at wide receiver on offense and junior Hunter Carpenter at defensive end.
For the season, Bridges had 20 receptions for 414 yards and five touchdowns with 328 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 59 carries.
“He was our offense,” Black said. “He did everything for us. He played quarterback, he ran the ball, and I think he was our only receiver to catch a touchdown pass in district. It just shows how much he matured throughout the season. That’s a kid that was not 100 percent sure about things with us coming in but he was our biggest leader and biggest supporter by the end of the year. He improved leaps and bounds from last year.”
Carpenter was Rio Vista’s second-leading tackler with 70 overall tackles on the season, including a team-high 14 tackles for loss and five sacks.
“That’s huge for him, especially with coming back,” Black said. “That’s a kid you can lean on that the defense knows is going to show up every night to play and do his job. Every time you looked up, he was making a play, either in the backfield or whatever was needed to be done. He’s a guy we’ll lean on heavily next year. He’s one of our hardest workers.”
Garnering second-team accolades on offense for Rio Vista are junior offensive lineman Ethan Cumins, senior offensive lineman Chance Harrah, senior receiver Cresson Crider, and senior receiver Anthony Perez. Second-team nods on defense for the Eagles are junior linebacker Noah Petty, senior linebacker Kody Arsenault, junior linebacker Brent Hoffman, junior safety Mason Findley, and senior defensive lineman Scott Lowrey.
Honorable mention for the Eagles include senior running back Jake Perkins, senior offensive lineman Roy Cuellar, senior quarterback Clayton Camp, junior receiver Josh Howard, junior defensive back Draven Martin, and sophomore defensive back Wyatt Johnson.
After the UIL announced the classification cutoff numbers, Rio Vista will move down from Class 3A to Class 2A beginning next season. To help get the program to where it needs to be, Black said it comes down to overall consistency.
“We have to be consistent in our everyday approaches,” he said. “I think the kids are getting used to what we’re asking them to do in offseason and I think that’s going to translate to next year. It’s just being consistent every day. If you’re supposed to be there at 7 a.m. for weights, be there early. It’s that type of commitment we’re looking for.”
Dublin senior quarterback Cy Wing was voted the district’s MVP while Jacksboro junior running back Caleb Helm was offensive MVP with Jacksboro senior linebacker Luis Ponce earning defensive MVP.