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When Tuesday's game with La Joya ended, the ensuing celebration of Sharyland was, more than anything, a bit anti-climatic, a bit dull. Besides a couple high-fives and a team picture, the Rattlers treated their back-to-back-to-back district championship run as though it was just another game.
What’s the catch? This is only the beginning. District championships are nice, but now starts the real goal: another deep run in the playoffs.
“We've been ready for a long time,” says Rattler Head Coach Rev Hernandez of his team’s desire to play in the post season.
Indeed they have. Judging by the hurt Hernandez's squad put on its district opponents week in and week out in 2011, it’s time for new opponents and harder play. For the past two months, the team in red has outscored their competition 67-13 in 14 games.
Combined with being crowned the top team in the Rio Grande Valley and possessing its rich championship soccer tradition, the Rattlers are again poised to match last year's amazing Regional Semifinal run. However, it won't be easy.
For one, Sharyland is without its top offensive threat Alex de la Garza who is out for the season after breaking his ankle in practice a couple weeks ago. In the three games since, the Rattlers have had two of their lowest offensive productions in district: a 1-0 victory over Mission and Tuesday's 2-1 victory over La Joya.
Second, winning three district championships in a row is one thing, but making three strong playoff runs is another. The way the brackets are set up forces Sharyland to likely face the top two teams from District 32-5A, arguably the top district in the RGV. The past two years has seen the Rattlers do just that. In 2009, the team lost to Brownsville Lopez 2-1 in Regional Quarterfinal. In 2010, the boys slipped by Lopez 1-0. Another likely meeting with Lobos is in the works for this year.
Despite the challenges, there are, of course, plenty of reasons why the Rattlers can go as deep if not deeper than last year. First, the squad is experienced and talented. Senior Bobby Moran heads a strong defense that is extremely hard to penetrate. Captain and sweeper Ricky Mata fills in superbly using his quickness and strength to control the ball and push it up field.
As for those whose job it is to convert passes into goals, there is plenty to like even without De La Garza. Daniel Garcia just finished as the district scoring champ with 15 goals (De La Garza was second with 13) and adding to the offensive pressure is Eliseo Trevino and Joey Martinez.
Sharyland starts off bi-district by playing the same team they faced last year: Del Rio. In last year's match-up, the Rattlers took the Rams down 6-0. Del Rio is coming off a 10-0 thrashing of Laredo Cigarroa and were two games from the third seed.
However, Del Rio has yet to play a team like Sharyland. In fact, a win over the Rattlers would make the Rams' season worth it.
What would make it worth it for the Rattlers? Another deep post-season run. In the coming weeks we will see if Shary has the deep run within them.
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