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One year ago the Corpus Christi team, Flour Bluff, opened its match-up against the Sharyland Rattlers by sacking the quarterback, forcing a punt two plays later and then proceeding to score on every possession until their quarterback took a knee to end the game in a rout of 56-24. It was a difficult loss for the Rattlers but according to Sharyland Head Coach Fred Sanchez, it may have been just what his team needed.

“That was our only loss and a lot of people bring that loss up,” said Sanchez. “But that was probably a blessing in disguise. It woke us up and got us ready for district. Now that we’ve played them we have a better idea of what to expect. The kids know what to expect. My objective is to see the team get better from week to week. That’s what I want to see.”

That being said, it’s probably fair to say Sanchez would rather his team not be doubly blessed as his Rattlers take on Flour Bluff again Friday night. With nine different starters on offense and six on defense, this is far from a true rematch. However, Sharyland should be itching to flex their muscles after a less than stellar first half in their last game against Edinburg North.

Sharyland trailed the Cougars at halftime by a field goal in a game that began with Edinburg North dominating time of possession.

“We haven’t been consistent over four quarters,” said Sanchez. “In the first half there were only 18 offensive plays. We had about three or four turnovers and that’s not good.”

The Rattlers came out of the half and responded, scoring 34 points on an Edinburg North team that couldn’t create the same havoc it had earlier in the game. According to Sanchez, it is moments like that where he believes in making opportunities out of challenges.

“I thought our defense played well in the sense that there weren’t a lot of points. Our offense spotted eight points, fumbling the first possession. It put the defense in a bad situation,” he said. “In the second half we made some adjustments. It boils down to challenging this year’s group to realize that situations like last week are opportunities. The kids responded well.”

Responding to adversity is a theme Sanchez tries to instill in his players. It is a lesson they appear to be taking to heart not just as a team, but as individuals. Even in the herky-jerky start, the Rattlers didn’t seem to panic.

Lightning quick senior Hunter Guzman coughed up the ball in the first possession of the game, which led to the Cougars first points. But it was a short-lived shame for Guzman as he took the next kick-off endzone to endzone to tie the game.

That sort of response is exactly what Sanchez wants to see out of his players.

“Negatives are going to happen. I always tell the guys that we’re going to make mistakes. I tell the guys that if they make a mistake, make it up with two positives,” said Sanchez. “Hunter made a mistake of fumbling the first possession then he made it up by running back the next kick. When he came off the field that’s what our kids were saying. They were saying, ‘two positives, two positives’.”

Unfortunately for the Rattlers, they will be without Guzman for the foreseeable future after a hit at the end of the run knocked him out of the game with an, as of yet, unspecified knee injury.

There was a telling moment just after Guzman’s injury. An Edinburg North player was briefly hurt and while being attended to by medical and coaching staff, even with emotions running high and concern over Guzman written on the faces of the players, they still dutifully stood out of respect for their downed opponent.

This is another facet in the philosophy of Coach Sanchez.

“Character is something that you work at year round with these kids,” he said. “When the opportunity comes, that’s what you want to see. That’s what makes a whole-hearted team.”

Heart will not be in short order this weekend on either side, and it’s really anyone’s guess how the showdown will shake out. But for Sanchez, especially in preparation for district play, there is an overarching plan and larger goal for his team than simply this one game.

“We’ve been in the playoffs many, many times. They’re a good opponent who has a good program,” said Sanchez. “At the end of the day I want to see our kids play to their full potential. If they do that, win or lose, I’m happy. When you don’t play to your full potential and lose, that’s when it bothers you.”

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