The San Marcos Rattlers gave it a good try Friday night, but New Braunfels Canyon had a little too much. So, the Rattlers aren’t going to the playoffs, but they’re back as a team with something to say about who does.
New Braunfels Canyon beat the Rattlers, 42-34. But the lead went back and forth all night, every Canyon highlight seemingly followed by a Canyon fumble, and the Rattlers took advantage. Entering the fourth quarter, the Rattlers held a 34-26 lead.
With a playoff bid on the line, though, Canyon cut out the mistakes. Its star running back, Gibreel Evans, ran 26 yards for a touchdown with 9:25 left in the game, then ran in a two-point conversion, tying the game, 34-34. Later, the Cougars marched again, with Evans running five yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left. This time, quarterback Philip Shelton ran in the conversion, and the Cougars had their final lead of 42-34.
Evans found himself pretty bottled up in Canyon’s last two games against Smithson Valley and Judson, totaling 30 carries for 116 yards in the two games. He broke out of the bottle against the Rattlers, rushing for 240 yards in 23 carries with four touchdowns. Evans probably should have become a 1,000-yard rusher two weeks ago, but he passed that mark and then some against the Rattlers, finishing his season with 1,229 rushing yards. Evans won the district rushing title by nearly 300 yards over Smithson Valley running back Cameron Jones, who finished the regular season with 939 rushing yards.
When Evans worked the Rattlers over for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Rattlers were unable to respond. They finished the year 4-6 overall and 1-4 in District 25-5A. They were greatly improved, still not up to the Bruce Bush days, but they were competitive against a good team Friday night. And Bush never contemplated anything like the San Marcos passing attack, which rang up 285 yards against Canyon.
The San Marcos passing game produced three touchdowns as quarterback Tucker Smith completed 31 of 47 passes. David Hamilton caught 10 of those passes, ringing up 158 yards and two touchdowns.
As the season ends, Smith threw the third most passes (230) of anyone in the district. With that, he finished tied for the lead in completions (145), second in completion percentage (63.0 percent), third in passing yards (1,593) and third in touchdowns (11). Zach Sterling finished third in the league with 47 receptions, while Hamilton made 29 catches and finished fifth in the district with five touchdown catches.
Rattlers coach Mark Soto, in his second year, has changed the face of the Rattlers from that of a team that threw about eight passes in every game just in case the defense was sleeping to that of a team throwing to move the ball. No team in the district threw the ball more than the Rattlers, who put it up 281 times, and no team completed more passes than the Rattlers, who completed 170.
However, Canyon did handle the San Marcos running game, holding the Rattlers to 113 yards in 30 carries. Jonoah Fabian led the Rattlers with 61 yards in 13 carries.
The Rattlers scored first against Canyon on a four-yard pass from Smith to Isaiah Brown less than three minutes into the game. Canyon responded before the end of the first quarter with a three-yard touchdown run for Evans, who then ran for the two-point conversion to give the Cougars an 8-7 lead.
A 31-yard field goal by Canyon’s Matt Wilson early in the second quarter gave the Cougars an 11-7 lead. But the Cougars were having trouble separating themselves from the Rattlers, who twice separated Canyon from the ball in the second quarter to set up touchdowns. The first Canyon fumble set up a one-yard touchdown run by Smith to put the Rattlers ahead, 14-11. The second Canyon fumble set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Hamilton. The duo connected for the two-point conversion, giving the Rattlers a 22-11 lead with 1:12 left in the half.
But New Braunfels was not going to make this easy, and it came right back with a crucial touchdown. Moving down field, a 22-yard pass from Canyon quarterback Philip Shelton to Eric Perez put the ball on the San Marcos one, from which Trevor Luckenmeyer ran for a touchdown with one second left before intermission. Shelton threw to Luckenmeyer for the two-pointer, bringing the Cougars within 22-19 at half.
This game already was getting dizzy, and there was more to come. Midway into the third quarter, Evans broke free and ran the field 71 yards for a touchdown. This time, the Cougars kicked the point to put them ahead, 26-22. It wasn’t long, though, before the Rattlers glided down the field. Smith connected with Hamilton for a 27-yard touchdown pass, giving the Rattlers a 28-26 lead. The Rattlers tried to run for the conversion, and failed. Not long after, though, they were on the board again with Fabian’s four-yard touchdown run. This time, the Rattlers tried to pass for the conversion and failed. But they led, 34-26, with one more quarter to play.
Canyon was more than ready to play it, scoring the two touchdowns that sealed its victory.
As it turned out, the Rattlers wouldn’t be going to the playoffs even if they did beat Canyon by 18 points to blow through all the tiebreakers. They could have gone to the playoffs with a straight victory against Canyon and a win by New Braunfels against Converse Judson. However, Judson was in the same kind of angry mood it displayed in a 72-18 win against the Rattlers, ringing up a 71-34 win against New Braunfels.
Canyon will play in the first round of playoffs against San Antonio Reagan, a 10-0 District 26-5A champion. Reagan is ranked No. 19 across Class 5A by Texas Football.
The Rattlers will play again next year. And when they get back to it, they won’t be building on nothing. They’ll be building on this year’s team, which put some of the fun back into football season.
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