San Marcos running back Emanuel Saldana (22, in black) tries to help quarterback Ryan Schweers (11) secure the ball as Kerrville Tivy’s James Lampson (42) and Brian Sherman (72) try to bring him down. Photo by Andy Sevilla.[display_podcast]
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By BILL PETERSON
As if they were visiting from the pages of time, the San Marcos Rattlers put on a performance Friday night the likes of which hasn’t been seen around here in a couple years, smashing through heavily favored Kerrville Tivy for 446 offensive yards in a 44-32 victory at Bobcat Stadium.
The Rattlers took complete control of the game early, finding themselves protecting an unexpected 30-point lead by late in the third quarter. A 30-point lead doesn’t need a lot of protecting, and that’s about how the Rattlers protected it, but that’s beside the point because the Rattlers saved their season.
Suddenly, the Rattlers are much better situated at 2-3 overall and 1-2 in District 27-4A. The Rattlers are no closer to Cibolo Steele and Alamo Heights, which both won Friday and improved to 3-0 in the league, but they are closer to Tivy and New Braunfels Canyon, who are tied for third at 2-1. Schertz Clemens is tied with the Rattlers at 1-2, while Seguin and Boerne Champion are 0-3.
The Rattlers will play their final three games against Clemens, Champion and Seguin, following next week’s game at Alamo Heights. If they can pull that one off, the Rattlers would be in great shape. Even if they don’t, though, the playoffs would still be within their grasp by winning those last three.
None of this would even be on the table if the Rattlers hadn’t gone straight after Tivy, bottling up quarterback John Manziel early and blowing up enormous running holes in the Tivy defensive front. One wag who follows Tivy said he couldn’t believe this was the same San Marcos team that lost last week, 35-14, at New Braunfels Canyon. No one else could, either.
“We’re just trying to play to our potential, and we finally got that done,” San Marcos head coach Steve Van Nest said. “We’re just playing one play at a time. Try to win this battle … We’ve got a lot of things to work on, but we showed the potential we have.”
The Rattlers hadn’t won a district game in nine tries since the University Interscholastic League (UIL) alignment sent them to District 27-4A starting in 2008. San Marcos officials asked the UIL for a transfer to District 17-4A, which the UIL granted in every sport except football.
So, the Rattlers face this murderers row in which four teams went at least two games into the playoffs last year, including Division II state semifinalist Tivy. Only two of the four entrants in District 17-4A won a playoff game.
The Rattlers entered last season thinking they could at least mix it up in District 27-4A, but they never actually demonstrated it until Friday night. Suddenly, they really are in the mix, just when it looked like they might be playing out the string. Friday night, they were the football team that went to the playoffs ten straight times entering last season.
One could still fault the Rattlers kicking game, which remains an adventure. Van Nest said the Rattlers kicked three times to the Tivy player who they specifically didn’t want receiving the kick. As a result, Tivy frequently answered San Marcos touchdowns with good field position. In the fourth quarter, a high punt snap forced Jeremy Gonzalez to take a 38-yard loss, setting up a Kerrville touchdown.
And the defense can still tighten up a bit. The Antlers scored two touchdowns of 50 yards or more and another went 24 yards.
The Rattlers’ vulnerability to the big play dropped jaws all over Bobcat Stadium with one dramatic turn of events in the second quarter. Punting from the Tivy 46, Gonzalez hit a floating, side-winding pop up that landed as if it were wounded on the 22, then started rolling, as if crawling on its hands and knees, towards the goal line. The Rattlers downed the ball inside the one, setting up Tivy with the longest of fields. On the first snap, though, Manziel made one move to his left, then blew through the line and went 99 yards untouched to the other end zone.
Unlike past second-quarter big plays against the Rattlers, this one occurred when they already held a 27-7 lead. It makes a difference. The Rattlers took the ball back on their own 27 with 2:28 left in the half and worked up a nice little drive incorporating ball control, clock management and three third-down conversions in 13 snaps. The last of those ended on a 34-yard field goal by Aaron Nunez as the first half expired with the Rattlers holding a 30-14 lead.
Notorious for its commitment to the running game, San Marcos played probably its best balanced offense in many years. The honor roll featured two 150-yard rushers — Andre Ray and Scooter Walker — along with an efficient passing attack that added 114 yards.
The Rattlers rolled up 24 first downs and took 67 snaps, compared with 12 first downs and 39 snaps for Tivy. The Rattlers scored touchdowns the first four times they took the ball, doing it in every way imaginable.
The first two touchdowns came at the end of good drives. After holding Tivy to three and out from the opening kickoff, the Rattlers went 61 yards in seven plays, taking a 7-0 lead on Kristian Cogdill’s two-yard run. After holding Tivy to another three and out, the Rattlers moved 72 yards in 11 plays, with Ray scoring from two yards out.
As the Rattlers held a 14-0 lead, Tivy took the ball with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, right about the time previous games began to unravel for the purple. The plot thickened with Tivy facing third and 14 from its own 47 as it tried to move the chains for the first time.
Manziel took a couple steps back before charging into a wide open field. For about half of a second, it really did look like the beginning of the end for the Rattlers, like Manziel was going all the way and the Rattlers were going to be in a fight. But San Marcos linebacker Anthony Ramirez found Manziel in the open field, put a shoulder under his hip and dropped the Tivy star at the Rattlers’ 41, six yards short of a first down.
So, the Antlers went for it on fourth down and Ramirez chased Manziel deep into the pocket, dragging him down for an 18-yard loss and giving San Marcos the ball at the Tivy 41. On the very next play, Rattlers quarterback Ryan Schweers threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ray, making it 21-0 13 seconds into the second quarter, and this one was already looking a lot different.
“The crowd got into it,” Van Nest said. “We gave them a show, for once.”
Tivy finally made a first down on its next drive and sustained it, reaching the end zone with a six-yard run by Sonny Guzardo to make it 21-7. But the Rattlers answered immediately, with Walker turning their next snap into an 80-yard touchdown run to make it 27-7.
The Rattlers also dominated the third quarter, which included Ray’s 68-yard touchdown run. Later in the quarter, the Rattlers scored on a 34-yard field when Terrence Wilburn ran the final yard. The Rattlers held a 44-14 lead with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Tivy scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but the Rattlers recovered the onside kicks and only lost a little more than half of their enormous lead. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Manziel ran 50 yards for a Tivy touchdown. On the play after Gonzalez had to take a 38-yard loss on a high punt snap, Manziel threw 24 yards for a touchdown to Andy Kinnison. Thus, the Antlers came to within 44-32 with 4:02 left.
But the Rattlers salted it away on the Tivy half of the field, converting two third downs and a fourth down, running the clock to six seconds before Tivy took another snap. The Rattlers were back, for at least a night.
Ray carried 21 times for 151 yards, while Walker carried 12 times for 150 yards. Schweers completed 10 of 13 passes. The Rattlers didn’t make a single turnover.
“If we play our game, we can hang with anybody,” Van Nest said.
They played it pretty well Friday night, looking quite capable of hanging with this district for the rest of the season.Email | Print