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Family feud

Editor’s Note: If this article was sent to press the Sharyland school district announced the Snakeskin Closet has been postponed until Monday, Nov. 23.

Seventh Snakeskin Classic tonight

The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks host their sister school Sharyland High tonight at Richard Thompson Stadium in an important early season contest.

The early aspect, as we all know by now, is due to the late start that all teams around the Valley have had to deal with due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In most years, games played the first week of November are typically the last of the regular season. Instead tonight’s contest features one team (Sharyland High) playing only its second game of the season and their first one in the West Zone of District 16-5A Div. II.  The Diamondbacks have played twice so far this year and got their first zone game out of the way last week.

The importance of tonight’s game is based on several factors. Games between teams from the same school district all carry a degree of importance no matter the sport.  Even without the usual Friday night environment that the effects of the pandemic has had on contests this fall, the motivation factor that such rivalries bring should still be in play.

But there is often much more riding on the outcome than bragging rights when these two teams get together.  There are usually post season implications as well. Sharyland coach Ron Adame has led the Rattlers to the post season in each of his previous eight seasons at the helm. Pioneer coach Tom Lee is seeking to make it three for three in his tenure leading the Diamondbacks.

The zone concept that is in place for the 2020 season in many districts due to the reduced number of games this year is part of District 16-5A Div. II as well. There are only four teams in the district’s West zone and the three games that each team play within the zone will be used to determine seeding for the district’s end of season East – West match-ups. Those games, scheduled for the first week of December will determine the four schools from District 31-5A Div. II that qualify for the playoffs. Both Pioneer and Sharyland High (along with Mission Veterans and Roma) are part of the district’s West zone.

With so few games that count, the importance of each is magnified. The Diamondbacks already have a leg up on the rest of the West zone by virtue of their 56-16 win over Roma last week, while the Rattlers and Patriots were idle. Much like last year, Pioneer is doing their damage with a quick strike offense.

The Diamondbacks (2-0, 1-0) have scored touchdowns on their opening offensive possessions in each of their victories this year, taking only one play to do so last week against Roma courtesy of a 92 yard run from quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger. The senior is off to another big year, having already thrown for eight touchdowns and run for four more. Classmates Tristan Castillo and Gavin De La Garza have been the main beneficiaries of Marburger’s accurate throws. Castillo has 16 receptions good for four scores on the year, while De La Garza has caught 11 for two scores.  Sophomore Joseph Graham Jr.  also has two receiving touchdowns on the year. Senior running back Taylor Esparza has three rushing touchdowns.

Adame got an up close look at what Marburger and the rest of Pioneer could do in last year’s 63-28 Diamondbacks victory, as the quarterback threw for five scores and ran for two more.

“He’s (Marburger) one of those young men that’s very hard to prepare for,” said Adame, citing Marburger’s ability as both a runner and a passer as well as his decision making and vision. “He’s the perfect pilot for the offense that they run.”

The Diamondbacks defensive unit has recorded six takeaways in their first two games, led by senior Alejandro Vasquez’s two fumble recoveries.

Lee has been pleased with the way his players have reacted to the different challenges this season has presented so far. “They’ve done a good job to adapt,” said Lee. “The kids have been really resilient to the changes that we are having to go through to get where we want to get.”

“We’ve just got to overcome (those challenges),” said Lee, adding that the Rattlers presented another one. “Sharyland has a really good football team and coach Adame always has those guys ready to go.”

The Rattlers (1-0, 0-0) looked ready to go in their 34 – 24 victory over Rowe two weeks ago, putting up some big numbers of their own on the offensive side of the ball.

Most of that offense came via the run and Rolie Saenz was responsible for a good chunk of it. The senior carried the ball 15 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns on the night. As a team the Rattlers put up 337 yards on the ground and a total of 420 in the win. Senior Robert Mancha and junior Ricky Vasquez both caught scoring passes from senior quarterback Benji Valdivia

Valdivia, like Marburger, is a returning starter and coach Adame likes what he has seen from his own signal caller as well. “When you compare it to last year he (Valdivia) is a lot further ahead and even though we’ve only played in two contests (the Rattlers scrimmaged McAllen High), we’ve seen some considerable improvement with his abilities as the pilot to our offense.”

Defensively the Rattlers had two takeaways against Rowe. Senior Luis Gonzalez had an interception and junior Tennessee Cano recovered a fumble.

Both coaches expect a tough battle tonight. “They’ve got a very talented team that’s very well coached,” said Adame. “When you have that combination it makes for big match-ups.”

“It should be a really good game this week,” said Lee. “The Snakeskin Classic is always big.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm tonight.

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