After district realignment in February when football teams found out who they’d be battling against in the fall, one thing was clear: the Sharyland Rattlers and Pioneer Diamondbacks were on a collision course in the chase of the 16-5A DII championship.
Now, in Week 8, both the Rattlers (4-3, 3-0) and Diamondbacks (4-2, 2-0) boast unblemished district records and are set to clash Friday night at Richard Thompson Stadium in the fifth edition of the Snakeskin Classic.
“Playing Pioneer this year, it’s a big opportunity to show what we’re made of,” said Sharyland’s leading tackler Javo Lopez. “They’re undefeated in district and so are we. We know they have a lot to prove too, we just got to go in there and do what we’re supposed to do and defend that district title because they’re trying to take that from us.”
The now five-year-old rivalry has seen the Rattlers jump out to a 3-1 series lead on the Diamondbacks, and after Sharyland’s 56-49 shootout win in 2017, this year’s game sets up to be another 48-minutes of non-stop action between the two sister schools.
Diamondback Head Coach Tom Lee will be coaching in his first Snakeskin Classic against the Rattlers and Ron Adame, who he coached under prior to Pioneer’s opening.
“We realize it’s a big game for the community and I realize we’re now 1-3 against Sharyland,” Lee said. “They know what to expect from us, we know what to expect from them. We expect a big crowd, a huge game, we expect both teams to go out there and compete at a level they probably haven’t competed at this year. That’s what a rivalry game does, it brings out the best in everybody. For us, we’re just trying to treat it as the next game for our opportunity to win a district championship.”
In last year’s shootout, Sharyland quarterback Edgar Longoria and Pioneer quarterback Jacob Rosales scored six touchdowns apiece for their team and both are back for one more go, but this year, they’ll each have another gunslinger ready to provide instant offense when called upon.
Both the Rattlers and Diamondbacks offenses have two starting-caliber quarterbacks that have proven they can lead their team to points and victories. Sharyland splits time at the quarterback position between two seniors, Longoria (536 pass yards, 4 pass TD, 280 rush yards, 7 rush TD) and Oscar Valdez (506 pass yards, 5 pass TD, 4 rush TD). The Diamondbacks rotate between Rosales (657 pass yards, 347 rush yards, 10 total TD) and sophomore Eddie Lee Marburger (748 pass yards, 154 rush yards, 10 total TD), and we could see them all light up the scoreboard as this one’s shaping out to be another high-scoring affair.
Sharyland Head Coach Ron Adame expects to see all four quarterbacks lead their teams Friday night.
“They’re a team that has two field generals that can lead them at any point, just like we do,” Adame said. “Friday night, you’re going to have four quarterbacks that can lead either one of their teams, two on our sideline, two on their sideline. Their speed and athleticism is something that we’re going to have to be able to contend with.”
Pioneer is fresh off handing Valley View their first loss of the year as they topped the previously unbeaten Tigers 35-27 in a fight til the end. The Diamondbacks used a 343-yard rushing performance on the ground on their way to victory, a team-high through six games. Former receiver Tristan Castillo seems to have found a home in the Pioneer backfield as the sophomore eclipsed 100-yards on the ground with two touchdowns, adding another element to the Diamondback offense.
One Diamondbacks who made his presence felt in the win against Valley View was Roel Cajero. The senior receiver had his biggest game of the year with six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against VV, and he’s looking for another big day against Sharyland, just like he had last year with a nine catch, 198-yard, two touchdown performance.
“We know we’re going to have to score everytime we have the ball,” Cajero said. “We have a great defense, but I truly believe it’s going to be another shootout. We have to come out strong and hungry.”
As for Sharyland, the Rattlers tested themselves early and are starting to reap the rewards. After a 1-3 start with games against Pace, Memorial, La Joya, and Hanna, the Rattlers have won three straight and seem to be clicking in all three phases of the game.
Now owners of a 3-0 district record, the Rattlers are playing well but know the brunt of their schedule begins this week against Pioneer.
“We’re expecting a battle,” said Sharyland running back Danny Escalera. “We know what they can do, we know what we can do. We respect them, but that does not mean we fear them. The game is sentimental, but like the coaches say, don’t let it get to your head, it’s just another game that’s on the way to a district championship.”
Kickoff between the Pioneer Diamondbacks and Sharyland Rattlers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Richard Thompson Stadium with the Diamondbacks serving as the home team.