SAN MARCOS, TX – The San Marcos Rattlers can be summed up in one word – resilient.
That much was evident weeks ago when they needed to come from behind after being down 21 points to Manor.
At the time, senior quarterback Prudy Calderon talked about he and his brothers on the field believing in each other and having the will to never stop fighting as long as there is still time on the clock.
That was put to the test last week as the erased another early deficit to Austin Bowie to win the 14-6A District Championship.
That belief extends far past the confines of the Rattlers locker room though, as a packed house of at least 5,000 fans at San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium seemed to never doubt that their beloved Rattlers would be up to the task again.
The comeback kids did it yet again on Friday night, as they had to look a 29-point deficit in the face and not flinch to come back and hand Round Rock Westwood the first loss of their season 64-50.
Head coach Mark Soto said after the game that his seniors are responsible for this “never say die” identity.
“The leadership in here is some of the most amazing leadership I’ve seen in my career. You have built this into one hell of a resiliency machine,” Soto said. “You’re talking about bouncing back, getting after it, digging, clawing deeper, working harder. 29 points down but it didn’t even affect you. Those are special things, those don’t happen by chance,” Soto said.
— Michael De Leon (@mdeleon) November 18, 2017
The Rattlers would be challenged early as Westwood attacked with three straight pass completions to get on the scoreboard in less than a minute. They then completed a pooch kick and recovered it in San Marcos territory.
Westwood quarterback Will Jennings showed poise as he guided the Warriors down the field, while the Westwood defense limited San Marcos’ offense.
Minutes into the second quarter, even early, to most onlookers it may have looked like Westwood was on their way to cruising to victory as Jennings ran it in from three yards out to take a commanding 29-0 lead.
But San Marcos wasn’t ready to quit, and on the first play of their next drive, Calderon broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run.
The Rattlers also made some defensive adjustments as they assigned senior cornerback Demarcus Hall to cover Oregon State commit Cameron Thomas. Hall shadowed Thomas all night, and he broke up a pass on Westwood’s next drive to force the Warriors to punt for the first time.
Minutes later, midway through the second quarter, Calderon got through the Warrior defense on a 46-yard touchdown run.
Westwood would score once again as Thomas wrestled an interception away from Hall, ending the half with a 36-14 lead.
San Marcos would receive to start the second half, giving them the opportunity to possibly chip away at the lead, but Westwood recovered the kick yet again and got all the way down to the Rattler five-yard line.
If the Rattlers were going to have a chance to pull off another comeback, they needed a goal line stop to avoid another momentum-changing touchdown. They got exactly that, and Westwood’s field goal attempt on fourth down was no good.
With Calderon doing all of the scoring for the Rattlers in the first half, they turned to their junior running back Jamon Johnson, especially in the third quarter. A 44-yard run put the Rattlers in the end zone once again, and Calderon connected with defensive end Tristan Williams, in the game as a receiver, for the two point conversion.
Thomas would answer back for Westwood, returning the kickoff for another Warriors TD, but Johnson matched Thomas’ effort with a return of his own.
After Josh Banda recovered a Westwood fumble, Johnson scored on consecutive touchdown runs of 24 and 59 yards to tie up the game.
Jennings scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass to retake the lead, but it would be the last time Westwood would score.
Calderon scored on a 50-yard touchdown run to even the score, and the Rattlers never looked back. They followed that with a Johnson 48-yard run and a Calderon 84-yard run to complete the comeback.
“It’s not our goal to get down obviously, but I’m never worried with this team,” Calderon said. “(Jamon and I) kind of compete in a way to see who can score the most touchdowns, who can break the longest runs. We have a close bond and he’s a great running back.”
Calderon and Johnson’s competitiveness surely yielded results as they scored four touchdowns apiece. Calderon finished with 354 yards and Johnson finished with 285, along with an 80-yard kickoff return. Both players averaged over 22 yards per carry.
On defense, Hall finished with an interception and several pass breakups as he held Thomas to 85 yards and one touchdown.
“I’ll tell you what if (Thomas) is an Oregon State commit, then maybe our kid should be an Oregon State commit because he shut him down today,” Soto said. “All the props to him, he’s a great athlete, but Demarcus Hall is a great athlete too.”
For Westwood, Jennings finished with 370 passing yards and five touchdowns. He added 95 yards on the ground. Ryan Lindley led all receivers with 126 yards and one touchdown.
The Rattlers have reached the playoffs every year Calderon has been on varsity, but he says the win over Westwood is a special one for him.
“This is the top of my list. It’s my senior year, I’m playing quarterback. It’s still all surreal to me. This team has crazy heart. I just want to keep this train going.”
The Rattler Express will do just that as they head to the area round next Saturday to take on the 11-0 Spring Westfield Mustangs at 2 p.m. at Prairie View A&M University’s Panther Stadium.