San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 9th, 2008
Rattlers hit the long road

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

The handwriting is on the wall for the San Marcos Rattlers, and no one is happy about it, but, then again, it had to happen sometime.

The Rattlers are 0-2 in a very tough District 27-4A, and four teams in the league are 2-0, which means the Rattlers are two games out of playoff position just two weeks into the district football season.

And that’s not even the worst of it. Friday night, the Rattlers (2-3 overall) take the long ride to Kerrville, where they will meet Kerrville Tivy, the most prolific offensive team in the league. The Antlers (2-0 District 27-4A, 4-1 overall) have scored 240 points, an average of 48 points per game.

More incredibly, the Antlers have done it for the last couple weeks without their starting quarterback, Colton Palmer. And it would figure, the season having gone the way it has for San Marcos, that Palmer is expected back in the lineup tonight.

Meanwhile, the Rattlers could use a hug after losing their first two district games, 49-17 at Steele and 48-14 at home against New Braunfels Canyon. The Rattlers need a win in the worst way, not just to climb into the playoff race, but just to feel a little better. And here they go Friday, on their longest, toughest road trip in the league.

“They want to win,” San Marcos coach Steve Van Nest said of his players. “We’re having to fight through adversity. We’ve had a good run here, but everything that can happen has happened this year … We’ve had nine straight years in the playoffs. Only a handful of teams in the Austin and San Antonio areas can say that.”

Van Nest didn’t need to add that the San Marcos streak is in peril. With a loss tonight at Tivy, the Rattlers would have to win their final four games of the season and probably receive outside help to enter the playoffs. A win changes everything.

Can the Rattlers win?

The Rattlers rank first among Class 4A teams in the San Antonio area with 320.8 rushing yards per game. Tivy ranks first among Class 4A teams in the San Antonio area with 253.2 passing yards per game. On the face of it, this is a meeting not just between contrasting styles of offense, but between teams that are very good at their chosen styles.

But it goes deeper than that. Turnover have killed the Rattlers this year. Against Canyon last week, they fumbled five times. And special teams have killed the Rattlers. Against Steele, they fumbled the first two kickoffs, and, last week against Canyon, they let the second-half kickoff land on the one-yard line so a Canyon player could pounce on the free ball for a touchdown.

So, the big issue for San Marcos is ball security. If it’s hard to imagine that turnovers are the key for a team that has lost its last two games by 32 points or more, remember that they have made a lot of turnovers. If they can take the mistakes out of their game, no one knows how good they can be.

“We teach good fundamentals, like we always have here,” Van Nest said. “It has become more of a point of emphasis in the last two weeks, but it’s always been a point of emphasis. We do all the drills, the hanging on to two balls at the same time, all of those things.”

The grumpy old timer who truly hates fumbles will tell you the coach used to make him carry a pink football around school for the whole week after he fumbled.

“Can you imagine how well that would go over today?” Van Nest said.

The idea Friday night, of course, is for the Rattlers to run the ball from their Slot-T offense, eat up the clock and keep Tivy away from the ball so it can’t exercise its offense that averages 410.8 yards per game.

“That’s the plan,” Van Nest said.

But it will only work if the Rattlers don’t fumble.

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