The Vandegrift Vipers look to present a serious challenge to the San Marcos Rattlers as both teams face off in tonight’s area playoff battle, but a tough 27-5A district has prepared San Marcos for just that.
The Rattlers had their moments against the top two teams in the district, Kerrville Tivy and Boerne Champion. Their best preparation for tonight, though, was likely their week 11 matchup with Lockhart.
The Lions were at the top of the district early on in the season and they are built around a running game, which seemed to be the one thing San Marcos struggled with. In a game that many expected would end their regular season, the Rattlers defense clamped down against Lockhart’s running back duo.
They’ll have to do the same tonight as they draw Vipers running back Travis Brannan, who has amassed nearly 2,000 rushing yards.
Aside from the defense, which has improved every week, and also limited a dangerous Harlandale offense last week, the Rattlers also have home field advantage. Whereas they had to play Tivy and Champion on the road, the Rattlers will host the first ever playoff game in San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium.
This home field advantage is not your run-of-the-mill intangible either. Last week, Rattlers fans outnumbered Harlandale fans known for showing up in droves in their home stadium. The city of San Marcos has Rattler fever, which is obvious from the flag at city hall, the Rattler flags around the square and businesses displaying their purple pride.
The home crown and the San Marcos community has been there as the the team built up an undefeated home record, and regardless of the challenge in front of them, the team and community has embraced the “we believe” motto, something football booster club president Rita De La Rosa attributes to the foundation instilled by head coach Mark Soto.
“These seniors have bought into the program. It’s just comefull circle. Ive been here for a while when my other son was a senior, and I’ve seen a real turnaround,” De La Rosa said. “Coach Soto has really built a foundation for these boys to grow on. A lot of these kids, it’ll be something that will be in their lives forever.”
“Words cant express how exciting it is to see this team so committed to the program. We have to Rattler up. It’s bittersweet for me because it’s my last year but once a rattler, always a rattler. Every year he’s been here, we’ve gotten better, and this year, everything lined up and we are in it to win.”
Vandegrift junior quarterback Alex Fernandes won the starting quarterback battle early on, and he has validated coach Drew Sanders’ decision by throwing for 2,491 yards with 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Tonight, he will likely be without his main target, as Paxton Segina was injured against Georgetown and did not play last week. He will look to Peyton Ausley and Culver Sumner to fill the void, but the Vipers may also look to get Brannan involved in the passing game with short-yardage or screen passes that will get him some open field in an attempt to extend drives.
Defensively, aside from their blowout win over Cedar Creek, the Vipers have given up a lot of points, even in wins. If they do that against the Rattlers, San Marcos’s offense can cause some problems.
Cavion Garner has quietly gained over 1,400 rushing yards this season with the help of an offensive line that has been winning wars all season. Harlandale’s highly-touted defense had no answer for Garner last week, and San Marcos was also very creative in using him as a decoy at times when Harlandale would commit to focusing on him.
It’ll be a battle and a challenge, but that won’t be new to either teams as San Marcos looks to move on to the regional round and Vandegrift has their sites set on making a return trip to the quarterfinals.
If you’re in the area, get there early for a tailgate in the gallery. A DJ and San Marcos BBQ will be there, and the San Marcos boosters arranged for the swim team to sell water.
The boosters also prepared for big crowds tonight by stocking their concessions.
“We’re getting ready because we anticipate Rattler Stadium will be packed,” De La Rosa said. “Tickets are selling well, a lot of community members are coming out to our very first playoff game ever, and we’re preparing by making sure we have plenty of food.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., but tailgating starts at 5 p.m.