San Marcos players huddled on the field Friday night, when they beat Lampasas, 33-0, at Bobcat Stadium. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By BILL PETERSON
In the spirit of recent rains that have soothed one of the worst local droughts in history, the San Marcos Rattlers claimed their first high school football win in a year Friday night, taking the measure of their mirror image in a 33-0 decision against Lampasas at Bobcat Stadium.
Lampasas came into San Marcos with a look at once new to itself and familiar to the Rattlers, the Slot-T offense that the Rattlers have operated to productive effect for most of the last 11 years. Not surprisingly, the game unfolded as though the Rattlers defense knew the Lampasas offense better than Lampasas. After all, a good number of the San Marcos defenders also run offense.
And the San Marcos coaches obviously knew what they were dealing with, which is another reason why the Rattlers took full control of this game right after halftime, played shutout football from beginning to the end and played shutdown football for almost the entire night.
“They did a couple things (in the first half) that we weren’t ready for,” said Rattlers coach Steve Van Nest, alluding to the wrinkles of the Slot-T. “We basically went back to playing our base defense and ‘Everybody play hard.’”
The Rattlers allowed only 157 total yards, 53 of them coming in the fourth quarter, when they already held a 26-0 lead. The shutout is even more estimable considering that Lampasas took over on the San Marcos seven at one juncture of the second quarter and still couldn’t score.
It’s unlikely, though, that any of the brave football fans at rainy Bobcat Stadium ever put Lampasas into the same breath with Cibolo Steele, which is generally put with Lake Travis as one of the best Class 4A teams in Region IV. Steele is coming to Bobcat Stadium in two weeks to kick off the District 27-4A season.
A strong performance against Steele would go a long way towards salving the Rattlers’ reputation, which took quite a beating in the wake of eight straight losses as they entered Friday’s game one day short of a year without victory. The Rattlers had last won at Lampasas, 41-13 last Sept. 12. Some of the men in purple took umbrage that two statewide ratings services actually pegged Lampasas as a 15-point favorite Friday night.
The Rattlers at least disabused that notion, improving to 1-1 this season. Finding their stride in the second half Friday night, they started the clock for a rigorous district season on the uptick Saturday morning.
“We did a big goose egg,” linebacker Jeremy Gonzalez said about the Rattlers’ shutout defense. “We broke our losing streak. Everything has gone right. We had a good week of practice.”
The Rattlers could use two good weeks of practice about now, because that’s their prep time for Steele, which combines star power with a bruising commitment to defense and the running game. Steele wide receiver Sheldon McClain has already selected Oklahoma, and junior running back Malcom Brown could be one of the best in Texas.
“They’ve got a lot of future Big 12 players on that team,” Van Nest said.
Though the Rattlers led only 6-0 at halftime, they were clearly better than 1-2 Lampasas, anyway, and the general halftime sense consisted in frustration that they somehow were unable to prove it. The first half resembled last week’s spine of a game at Lockhart, with big plays by the San Marcos defense reversing misplays by the offensive and kicking teams.
But the Rattlers entirely dominated the second half, scoring four touchdowns while limiting Lampasas to only two first downs. The Rattlers so controlled the second half as to make eloquent their stammering first half, without which the night would have lost all suspense much too early.
Perhaps Van Nest would have preferred it the other way, but he had to like watching one half during which everything worked. Imagine that this game remained wide open at the second half kickoff, when Lampasas could still take the lead with a little blocking and tackling, then look how quickly that went away.
The Rattlers started at their own 34 off the second-half kick and cruised along the ground, 66 yards in nine rushing plays, ending with a one-yard touchdown run by Scooter Walker to make it 13-0. Because of that offensive march, the next big defensive play was a game changer, rather than a game saver.
After kicking off to Lampasas, the Rattlers forced a quick third-down fumble and recovered it on the Lampasas 39. Quarterback Ryan Schweers started the ensuing drive with a 12-yard rip to the right, before Terrence Wilburn pounded out carries of 10 and seven yards to the Lampasas seven. Andre Ray then went seven yards for the touchdown, making it 20-0 after the kick by Aaron Nunez.
In a mere nine plays from scrimmage, a tooth pull turned into a breather, and the game kept going more and more that way. Next, the Rattlers took a punt after forcing a three-and-out, so they started with challenging field position, their own 17. But it didn’t seem to matter.
After the Rattlers fought for one first down, they started coming on just about every play. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tomas Velasquez carried 18 yards for a first down, then Ray ran 18 yards for a first down, then Ray ran for another nine, which would make one wonder why the Rattlers would ever pass, which was why the time was right for Schweers to throw for a 20-yard touchdown to Velasquez.
The Rattlers took the ball one more time in this game, enabling their second line of skill players to run seven plays for 70 yards and reach the end zone with a 17-yard carry for Emanuel Saldana. Playing quarterback, sophomore Hunter Burttschell made the key gain on the drive, running 18 yards on third-and-four to reach the Lampasas 36.
Thus ended an almost perfect half of football for the Rattlers, a half about as good as it gets, just when they need to see what that is. The difference between the second half and all that preceded it was most directly a lack of mistakes on offense and special teams. For Friday’s entire first half, the Rattlers couldn’t finish what they started, fumbling twice and twice bogging down in the red zone to settle for field goals.
The game began with Lampasas smashing to two first downs before quarterback Colton Perkins fumbled and Kash Seward recovered for the Rattlers, who took over on the Lampasas 21. But the Rattlers stalled at fourth and seven from the eight and took a 25-yard field goal by Nunez, making it 3-0 with 4:58 left in the first quarter.
The Rattlers fumbled at their own 40 on their next try, and Lampasas set up on their seven after Perkins returned the drop to the 13 and added half the distance with a horse collar penalty against San Marcos. The Rattlers defense gained a reprieve when Edward Grant of Lampasas appeared to run for a nine-yard touchdown, except his helmet came off in transit, blowing the play dead. The Rattlers made that break stand up, forcing Perkins to try a 23-yard field goal, which missed.
Unable to hold their dagger, the Rattlers fumbled again on their next possession. But the defense picked up the offense with a three-and-out, and the offense started moving. Schweers started a new possession with a 12-yard run, then completed passes of 11 yards to Payton Pringle and 27 yards to Velasquez. But he threw incomplete on third and three from the eight, so Nunez punched up another 25-yard field goal to make it 6-0 with 29 seconds left in the half.
The Rattlers totaled 404 yards of offense, 338 of them coming on 49 rushing attempts. Schweers completed five of six passes, three of them to Velasquez for 44 yards and a touchdown. Walker led the ground attack with 12 carries for 84 yards, but two other San Marcos rushers logged at least 50 yards, another two produced at least 30, and three more carried for 20 or more.
The night can’t be compared with a win against Steele, but it was, for the Rattlers, a shutout and an indication of what they might accomplish if they can take the mistakes out of their game. It was enough to stoke the hope that if the Rattlers don’t beat themselves, then Steele might not beat them, either. Most of all, it was a win, which is as common as rain, which, until this week, hasn’t been very common at all.