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20131115-Sharyland-v-Laredo-United-South-Playoff-Football-071In what’s shaping up to be an epic battle between two of the Valley’s 5A powerhouses, the 11-0 Sharyland Rattlers and the 10-1 Harlingen Cardinals will be taking to the gridiron tonight at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen in the UIL Region IV area round playoff game. This clash of the South Texas titans will determine which team will earn the right to move on to the regional round of the state playoffs against either San Antonio Madison or O’Conner High School.

As this year’s district and bi-district champions Coach Ron Adame’s Rattlers and Coach Manny Gomez’s Cardinals are on a path very similar to last year when Sharyland defeated Harlingen 42-2 in the midst of a wind-driven downpour at Weslaco’s Bobby Lackey Stadium. Their ability to overcome some of the worst weather ever seen under the Friday night lights allowed the Rattlers to advance while the Cardinals were left wondering what could’ve been.

“The weather last year became an equalizer, but don’t get me wrong, they played hard and they played better than us on that day and they were able to pull off the win,” explained Gomez. “I’m not making any excuses. They’re a talented ball club and they played better in stormy conditions than we did and that’s the bottom line.”

Other than last year’s “Storm Bowl”, Sharyland and Harlingen do not have a history of playing each other since the Rattlers move to 5A.

Asked whether his players might be out to avenge last year’s loss by turning tonight’s game into a grudge match, Gomez does not believe that will be the case.

“We’re looking at this game as an opportunity for us to take the next step towards our ultimate goal of becoming state champions or state champion competitors, but we’re not looking at it as a grudge match at all,” added Gomez.

As for Sharyland, their bi-district win over Laredo United South last week almost proved to be a costly one when Diego Chrysler, one of the Rattlers’ two starting quarterbacks, left the game with an injury. Whether that injury keeps Chrysler out of tonight’s game may not be known until game time.

“Diego did sprain his ankle, but he’s on a day-to-day basis and he’s not ruled out for the game,” explained Adame. “We’ll probably make a game time decision on him but the extent of his injury is basically just an ankle. We really don’t have anybody else that’s going to be out due to injury.”

Despite their one loss, a Week 0 loss to 9-2 San Antonio Johnson, the Cardinals were as dominant in 32-5A this year as the Rattlers were in 30-5A. Like Sharyland, Harlingen went 8-0 in district play and like Sharyland Harlingen outscored their district opponents by exactly 305 points this season. Overall, the numbers are also similar, with the Cardinals having put 501 points on the scoreboard thus far this season while giving up 116 and the Rattlers having scored 489 points while giving up 105. That’s a point differential of +385 for Harlingen and +384 for Sharyland.

With the Cardinals’ ability to put so many points on the board, Adame will be counting on his defense to do what others have failed to do – defuse their explosive offense.

“Offensively they’re explosive, they’re electric and they can put up points quick,” said Adame. “These are things that certainly concern us defensively and one of the directions that this game can take will be a shoot-out because there haven’t been very many teams that have been able to slow them down. Other than Harlingen South that held their offense to 14 points, they’ve opened up the floodgates against everybody else.”

“Defensively speaking, they’re a well-coached team,” added Adame. “Manny does a good job with them and their guys fly to the football. When I look at them I see a lot of similarities between our teams in regards to being able to score points quickly and also the speed of their defense.”

The one thing that Adame believes has been critical to his team’s success week-in and week-out, and will be especially critical against Harlingen, is for each of his players to focus on those things they can control. In order to help him get this point across about this, Adame counts on Pepe.

“We have an acronym that we use to remind our boys of the things they have control over as players,” explained Adame. “That acronym is Pepe. I keep reminding my kids not to worry about things they don’t have control over. But the things they do have control over are: their preparation which begins on Saturday; their effort, which they put in Monday through Thursday; their performance and their emotions, which both come into play on game night. So preparation plus effort plus performance and emotions equal Pepe.”

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