by Kyle Spencer
Video by Caleb-Ryan Davis
32 teams are left in the 5A state championship race. The Rattlers are one of those teams. After a regular season of adversity, heartbreaking injuries and break out performances, San Marcos is still standing when the dust settles. This may just be the second round of a long state title run but the second round is much farther than most critics saw this program reaching. Breaking this team down is easy to do. They have a lethal running back in Garner, a gun-slinging hard-nosed quarterback in Ahrens, and a defense full of players that make big plays. What separates this team is the culture they live every day. They are brothers on and off the field and that brotherhood has allowed them to persevere through adversity.
Last week the adversity was being held scoreless in the second half. After putting together a 3 touchdown half in the 1st and 2nd quarter, the Rattlers couldn’t find the end zone. They also had a field goal blocked by Harlandale and had a tough time finishing off drives. The lack of offense allowed the defense to shine brightly and ultimately win the game for San Marcos. 21-10 was the half time score. 21-18 was the final score. The Rattler defense held strong for the 3rd and 4th quarter only allowing Harlandale to score once late in the 4th. In those 2 quarters Zedric Horton and Joseph Wilburn were able to pick off the quarterback, and Colby Vidrine constantly applied pressure. Defense has been a recurring problem for San Marcos throughout the course of the year, but last week’s performance should give their fan base a lot of confidence.
This impressive defensive showing could not have come at a better time. Vandegrift comes into this game with a talented offense that can cause a lot problems for San Marcos. There is no doubt that this is the biggest test for a defense that is known to give up a lot of points. Vandegrift is an Austin team coming out of one the toughest districts in Texas with a 5-2 record. The Vipers have a gang of deadly players on offense led by the quarterback Alex Fernandes. The junior has over 2500 passing yards and a grand total of 33 touchdowns through the air. He is a good decision maker as well only posting 5 interceptions all season. Colby Vidrine and Jose Tarango will need to apply pressure on the end to hurry Fernandes up and not allow him to get comfortable. Fernandes has a game similar to Cade Dyle at Tivy. He doesn’t like to run and he is deadly in the pocket. Zedric Horton and Angel Espinosa were both able to pick Dyle off in their district match-up.
Those two defensive backs will have to play well against the talented receiver core of Vandegrift. 4 receivers on this team have over 20 catches this year. So there is no question that Vandegrift likes to put the ball in the air. The entire secondary will need to play well. Expect to see a big play or two from Castillo and Calderon in that San Marcos secondary. A factor that makes these receivers so successful is the running back behind Fernandes. Travis Brannan is 100 yards away from breaking the 2000 yard mark. This kid also knows how to find the end zone with a total of 27 touchdowns. That is almost double the amount that Cavion Garner has on the season. Granted, Brannan gets more touches, but with the amount of talented receivers that Vandegrift has it makes the defense play honest. San Marcos will have to affectively stop the pass and the run to stay in the game.
While the Vipers can put up a lot of points, their defense isn’t anything that the Rattlers haven’t seen before. This defense is no better or no worse than a Boerne-Champion or Tivy. Coach Soto likes to put points on the board and his team will have that opportunity if they play up to potential. Remember, this a team that put 38 points against a Boerne-Champion team in one half.
The game will played this Friday in San Marcos. The Rattlers will be in the away uniforms because they are the lower seed, but nevertheless this a home game for Coach Soto’s team. Pregame starts at 7:20 and kickoff is planned for 7:30.