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

October 16th, 2009
Rattlers seek breakthrough at Alamo Heights


Only time will tell if the San Marcos Rattlers’ convincing win against Kerrville Tivy last Friday was a breakthrough or a flash in the pan.

At the very least, it’s cause for the hopes of San Marcos fans, who would love to see an encore Friday night at Alamo Heights.

Even if the team shouldn’t necessarily be thinking beyond Alamo Heights, a win there would present enticing scenarios for the fans. After all, any team that can win at Alamo Heights should be able to beat Clemens, Boerne Champion and Seguin, which are the last three teams on the San Marcos schedule.

And that would usher in a significant mood shift from those late moments on the field in New Braunfels two weeks ago, when the Rattlers suffered a difficult loss, 35-14, at Canyon. So, the stakes have changed suddenly.

Before last Friday, the Rattlers had lost 14 of their last 17 games going back to 2007, and they hadn’t won in nine tries within District 27-4A. With that 44-32 win against Tivy, the Rattlers showed what previously could only be said, which is that they could win in that district.

“It’s real good for the kids,” said Van Nest, who added that the biggest challenge the last few weeks involved keeping the players from losing faith while observers expected them to lose games.

“You can’t listen to those people, because those people are always going to be negative,” Van Nest said. “The kids have done a good job of not listening to the doubters … We always try to be positive with them. There’s no secret to it. People like to jump on people who are down … We tell them, ‘Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do it. Don’t ever let people tell you you’re going to lose and can’t do it.'”

The Rattlers go into Friday’s game 2-3 overall and 1-2 in District 27-4A. A win for the Rattlers would put them in a tie for fourth place, the final playoff position, even if it’s a three-way tie.

Though Van Nest said “one game doesn’t mean it’s all fixed,” the win against Tivy at least gave everyone some reassurance.

But Alamo Heights is formidable at 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the district. The Mules are tied with Cibolo Steele for the top spot in District 27-4A at 3-0. Following at 2-1 are Canyon and Tivy, which play each other Friday night.

The Mules are 1-2 at home, but can’t be accused of sloughing before their crowd. The home losses were 29-0 to Round Rock Stony Point, which is the top-ranked Class 5A team Austin by the Austin American-Statesman, and 14-13 to San Antonio Clark, which is the top-ranked Class 5A team in San Antonio by the San Antonio Express-News.

Except for Stony Point, no team has scored more than 16 points against Alamo Heights. The Mules have found their way defensively, giving up an average of 222.3 yards in district games after allowing an average of 375 yards in three tough non-district games.

The Mules are equally good running and passing the ball. They average 174.2 yards per game on the ground and 176.8 yards per game in the air.

Alamo Heights Quarterback Cullen Mills throws 25 times per game for 175.2 yards per game and totals of eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Five different receivers have caught between 10 and 14 passes. Running back Justin Rosenthal has carried for 883 yards with a 6.3-yard average per carry.

“They’re a good overall football team, just like they always have been,” Van Nest said. “They have a good quarterback who can throw it, a good running back who can run it and good receivers who can catch it … They’ve got good defensive players, but most of their studs are on offense.”

Though the Rattlers continue to forge their offensive identity in the running game, they also passed effectively against Tivy. After the Rattlers averaged 17.5 passes in their first four games, quarterback Ryan Schweers completed 10 of 13 passes against Tivy, bringing his season totals to 42-for-82 (51.22 percent) and 486 yards.

Some of that effectiveness in the passing game last week could be attributed to a running attack in which Andre Ray and Scooter Walker each rushed for 150 yards or more. Ray is up to 418 rushing yards this year, while Walker has rushed for 332 yards. The Rattlers are rushing for 251.8 yards per game.

The Rattlers are moving the ball against district competition, averaging 414.3 offensive yards within the league. The defense is allowing 344 yards per game within the district, and could bring that number down by cutting off the big play by the opposition.

The Rattlers allowed touchdown runs of 99 and 50 yards by Tivy quarterback John Manziel. However, the Rattlers didn’t turn the ball over a single time against Tivy.

Playing against a strong team on the road Friday night, it would figure that another turnover-free performance would be essential. If the Rattlers can hold onto the ball, they’ve demonstrated that they can move it down the field. And if they can move the ball enough to keep Heights’ offense off the field, the Rattlers could really be brewing something.

But that discussion is premature right now.

“When I say ‘One game at a time,'” I really mean that,” Van Nest said.

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