Texas high school football can sometimes be a bit confusing. Not every game in the season is equal in the eyes of the UIL, the governing body of high school sports in the state. Post season qualification is based solely on your district record and the place in the standings that record puts you. Early non-district losses, in the bigger scheme of things may not matter.
District alignments can be confusing as well. Some, like District 16-5A Div. I, have ten schools competing for the four spots that qualify for the playoffs. That means only one non-district game and nine that count. More district games, however, may afford the opportunity to recover from a loss or two.
That is not the case in smaller districts like District 16-5A Div. II. While the seven schools in this district get the benefit of four non-district games to prepare for the games that count, the short six game district schedule offers less opportunity for error. Every outcome is significant.
This makes tonight’s game between Roma and Sharyland, members of District 16-5A Div. II, a big one; even though it is only the second district game of 2019. Both survived their district openers last week, giving each a win in a district where a 3-3 record was good enough for the post season last year. A win tonight puts the team that gets it closer to the playoffs.
Roma has had a rough start to 2019, losing all four of their non-district games. When it counted last week, however, the Gladiators defeated Valley View 21-17. Don’t let those losses fool you either; the Gladiators have been a force of late, especially on offense.
In a 36-35 loss to Laredo Nixon three weeks ago Roma amassed over 500 yards of offense, a whopping 406 yards on the ground. In their last two games they have begun to balance things out, gaining over 200 yards running and passing in each.
Quarterback Jonathan Rios has been the catalyst for the Gladiators. The senior has accumulated almost 700 yards passing on the year with four touchdowns. In each of his last two games Rosales has also rushed for 100 or more yards. His six rushing touchdowns on the season lead the team.
The Gladiators offense has some other weapons too. Fabian Lopez is the team’s leading rusher with almost 500 yards so far this season. The junior was a huge part of the big night the Gladiators had against Nixon, accounting for 220 yards rushing. Lopez leads all of District 16-5A Div. II in rushing through five games.
Another junior, Esteban Barrera is emerging as the team’s top receiving threat as the Roma passing attack has improved. Barrera has accumulated 16 receptions for 291 yards and two touchdowns over the past three games.
The Gladiator defensive unit has contributed too. Hiram Flores intercepted three passes last week in the win over Valley View.
Sharyland coach Ron Adame says preparing for a team like Roma is challenging. “They (Roma) like to run the ball but you’ve got to be ready for the play action pass too.”
Adame added that the Gladiators misdirection plays are something few teams in the Valley run and can create problems for a defense.
The 2019 season for the Sharyland Rattlers has so far been one with both highs and lows. A tough non- district schedule has seen the Rattlers defeat good teams like Brownsville Pace and La Joya while suffering setbacks against McAllen Memorial and Brownsville Hanna. Coach Adame has always liked to schedule tough opponents early in the year to help prepare his teams, and the Rattlers showed they were ready last week by opening district with a 42-17 win over Laredo Cigarroa. This year’s Rattlers, however, have yet to win consecutive games.
Against Cigarroa, Adame emphasized minimizing turnovers and penalties and was pleased that both areas saw improvement.
Another big factor was the 326 yards rushing and six touchdowns the Rattlers put on the Toros.
The Rattlers have used a variety of personnel combinations on offense so far this year in both the running and passing games. Three different quarterback s have spent time leading the offense. Junior Benji Valdivia leads the team in both passing and rushing.
Against Cigarroa, Valdivia had a 46 yard touchdown run off an option play and added 47 more on a scramble later in the game.
Four others have made contributions to the running game as well. Robert Mancha, Damian Pruneda, Kevin Chavez and Andres Bonilla have all accumulated close to 100 yards or more rushing on the year. Mancha had a 46 yard touchdown run against Cigarroa and Pruneda scored one from 24 yards out.
Daniel Pena leads the team in receiving with 18 catches for 358 yards through five games.
The Rattlers defense has done their part too, currently ranked as the second stingiest group in the district, surrendering less than 300 yards per game. Ethan Garza is the team’s leading tackler with 43, including seven that have resulted in loss of yardage for the opponent. The team has seven interceptions and five fumble recoveries through five games. Pena and Luis Gonzalez have two picks each.
Adame noted the overall contributions of Gonzalez. The junior has been named by the team as a player of the week for the offense, defense and special teams so far this year.
For tonight’s game Adame said that besides the usual keys that dictate success on any given night, like taking care of the football and winning third down, he wanted his team to do one more thing.
“Play with a purpose,” he said. “Play to come out with a 2-0 district record.”
Besides the perfect start to the district season and ending the “win one, lose one” cycle the team has been on, a win tonight would also mark the first time this year the Rattlers will have recorded a home victory.
Kickoff is scheduled at Richard Thompson Stadium for 7:30 pm.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 4, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.