By BILL PETERSON
If the San Marcos Rattlers aren’t already acclimated to football season, they’ll know it’s here Friday night.
The Rattlers are playing Friday night in Bastrop (7:30 p.m.), where one year of Westlake architect Ron Schroeder, the coming of a new high school and a second year under former Plano East offensive coordinator Gerald Perry have brewed up a dangerous environment.
Because of Schroeder’s insistence, the football players finally have a varsity quality weight room. Because of the oncoming high school, Bastrop ISD will open a $6 million stadium Friday night. And because of a second year under Perry, the Bears roll out a polished passing game led by a 5-foot-6 quarterback with clever pocket skills.
Add it up and the Rattlers are in for quite a party as they attempt to bounce back from last week’s 41-20 opening loss at Waco University.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, but we like that early in the season,” San Marcos coach Steve Van Nest said. “We like to see what we have.”
The Rattlers found out last week that their young, smallish offensive line wasn’t quite ready to push against University defensive tackles Xavier Mitchell and Damian Haliburton. The Rattlers rushed for only 78 yards in 36 carries, forcing them to try an uncharacteristic 23 passes.
“Probably, last week was a combination of our inexperience and (University’s) outstanding defensive line,” Van Nest said. “Their defensive tackles are 270 pounds and very athletic. That was quite a challenge for our guys up front, but our guys will get better as we go along.”
If it means anything, Hays ran pretty effectively last week against Bastrop, though the Bears tacked up a 34-14 win, their biggest thumping of the Rebels in 19 years. The two top Hays rushers were Trace Gandy and Anthony Garza, who combined for 176 yards in 30 carries.
So, the Rattlers could expect a return to their smashmouth ways against Bastrop. If that accomplishes nothing else, it would minimize opportunities for Bastrop quarterback Josiah Monroe, last year’s offensive newcomer of the year in District 25-5A.
Monroe torched Hays last week with 12-of-19 passing for 254 yard and four touchdowns. He’s got a versatile fleet of receivers, including Auston Shipley as a possession threat, Josh Taylor as a sticky-handed deep play and Chris Fletcher to do a little of both.
The Bastrop quarterback presents quite a different look from Randy Price, the 6-foot-4 University quarterback who rushed for 148 yards last week against the Rattlers. Perry is adamant about keeping Monroe in the pocket, where his sense of the pass rush enabled him to extend plays for big gains through the air last week.
“We respect his athleticism,” San Marcos cornerback Scooter Walker said, “but we’ve got 11 athletes.”
Despite allowing five touchdowns last week (the other University touchdown came on a San Marcos turnover), the San Marcos defenders believe they’re on the right path. One of those touchdowns came on a 17-yard field after a Rattlers turnover, and two others came in the fourth quarter, which is cause for concern.
“We had some breakdowns in the fourth quarter,” San Marcos linebacker Jeremy Gonzalez said. “Maybe we got tired, which is something we can’t be doing. But we also had five stops in a row, so we can build on that.”
The Bastrop offense figures to challenge San Marcos on the ground, also. Due to their big plays in the passing game, the Bears only rushed 21 times last week, but they gained 113 yards. Running backs Mark Jackson and Mustafa Akbar are both capable, and Fletcher also works from the backfield.
And even when the Rattlers make stops, it might not be entirely good news. Bastrop kicker Lee McMillan hit a clear 44-yard field goal last week against Hays. If Bastrop just reaches the San Marcos 30, it’s got a chance to score points.
“We’ve got weapons at every position,” Perry said.
The Rattlers will have to bring all their weapons, especially the running game and the defense, if they’re going to spoil the house warming at Bastrop’s new stadium.Email | Print