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Transition time

Rattlers football preparing for Hanna, district

Non-district high school football games are always a bit tricky to judge. They are usually played at the start of the season and teams may be a bit rusty. Teams may approach them with different mindsets as well, juggling players around at different positions to see how they do or getting a lot of different players in the game to build depth. Some teams may play their first teamers right out the gate to establish that all important “chemistry” that is talked about so much by players and coaches alike.

In Texas, teams may also come in having practiced different amounts of time depending on if they had spring football. They may also have a have different number of non-district games, further complicating preparation since teams with more non-district games may not be as quick to show their hand to upcoming district foes.

That brings us to tomorrow’s Sharyland High match-up with Brownsville Hanna. For Sharyland, coming off a season opening 42-28 win over Brownsville Pace last week, it’s their final tune-up before entering UIL District 16-5A Div. II play. Hanna, who lost their first game to Mercedes, will still have an additional non-district game after tomorrow to prepare for UIL District 32-6A opponents. In fact, the Golden Eagles don’t start district until September 24.

First year head coach Craig Krell was pleased with the way the Rattlers got out of the gate quickly against Pace, combining defensive stops with three scores on their first three offensive possessions.  “We talk about feeding off of each other and creating momentum,” said Krell, “and luckily in the first quarter we were able to do that.”  Rattlers quarterback Orly Lopez threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers on the night.  The Rattlers defense got an interception from Tennessee Cano and Diego Zavala recovered a fumble on special teams.

Tomorrow’s game marks that time of transition from non-district contest to district games; when some say the real season begins .For the Rattlers, it means one last chance to see different players, build depth and possibly do a little experimenting with schemes they hope to use once district play begins. It might also serve as a barometer of sorts in how things look for the district race and the hopes that the Rattlers have for returning to the postseason after missing out last season. Mercedes is considered one of the teams to beat in District 16-5A Div. II and after tomorrow, the Rattlers can, at the very least, compare how they did against a common opponent.

“We want to win obviously,” said Krell, when asked about his approach to non-district games. “But . . . we also want also want to make sure that if we have the ability to get other guys in the game and get them some experience we’re going to. Our big thing too, is to make sure that we’re in shape and to make sure we understand both sides of the ball; our philosophy, our scheme and everything like that.”

Hanna should give the Rattlers a good look as to how the team is handling Krell’s goals.  “They’re (Hanna) usually a very tough team . . . and looking at them on film that’s kind of what we’re seeing.”  Krell says the Golden Eagles have a defense that runs to the ball well and on offense, both a quarterback and running back that have to be contained.

Using a balanced approach, Hanna quarterback Joshua Vela passed for 108 yards last week and running back Kriz Pena rushed for 97 yards to lead the Golden Eagles. The Hanna defense struggled to stop Mercedes, however; giving up close to 500 yards in the 42-14 loss. Hanna also turned the ball over three times on the night. The Golden Eagles have come out on top over the Rattlers in their last two meetings (2019, 2018). Sharyland last defeated Hanna in 2013.

The final takeaway from Krell? “Make sure we take care of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”

And while getting another win is the aim of tomorrow’s contest, Krell is also looking to see a number of other things on Saturday. “Once again, coming away with a victory, making sure we’re playing a little bit better than we played the week before; kind of make sure that we’re headed in the right direction for our district opener.” Krell also talked about the importance of hydration, rest and getting his players back into the routine of playing games after a long summer off.

     The Rattlers’ Kali Nguma, Chris Gonzalez and Lopez were all pleased with how the season opener went and expressed optimism when asked about tomorrow’s game. They also shared their thoughts on how they approach any game, non-district or not.

“We just think of every game as an obstacle,” said Nguma, the team’s kicker. “We just need to overcome every game and go game by game by game.”

“Our coaches like to say we’re always 0-0 to motivate us,” said Gonzalez, a linebacker.  “We play every game like it’s our last.”

“We’re always working hard,” said Lopez. “We’re going to take it day by day and work every day really hard.”

Kickoff for tomorrow is scheduled for 11 am at Brownsville’s Sams Memorial Stadium. The Rattlers open District 16-5A Div. II play at home against Edcouch-Elsa next Friday night.

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