Wednesday, September 23, 2015



By Kenneth Roberts
Freelance Writer

The Rio Grande City Rattlers, benefiting from a strong nucleus of talented veterans as well as several gifted newcomers, have high hopes for an excellent 2015 season and a potential playoff berth after getting off to a 2-1 start in non-district play.

On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Rattlers achieved a 35-34 overtime triumph on the road against the La Joya Palmview Lobos, a District 30-6A team that reached the second round of the state playoffs last year. In that contest, junior running back Casimiro Olivarez romped through the Lobo defense for 196 yards and senior linebacker Victor Martinez blocked two extra point attempts and a 37-yard field goal try with seven seconds left in regulation. Olivarez scampered 15 yards for the game-tying score with 49 seconds remaining in regulation.

Prior to the victory over Palmview, the Rattlers defeated Ingleside 13-0 in the season opener before coming up short by a 13-7 margin against Port Isabel. The Rattlers were scheduled to host Corpus Christi King Friday night, Sept. 18 in their final 2015 non-district game.

Rattler Head Coach Carlos Longoria commented on Wednesday, Sept. 16, “So far, I feel we're headed in the right direction. All four teams in the non-district portion of our schedule made the playoffs last year. I feel we had a good chance to win the game we lost (to Port Isabel); we had several opportunities to win but didn't capitalize.”

“I'm proud of the effort and commitment our youngsters are showing,” emphasized the coach. “You have to follow the standard of not looking behind or looking ahead. This group is very united and really cares about each other. The commitment to work hard is very strong and constant.”

In its 2015 preseason preview, Texas Football magazine indicated that the Rattlers return 11 starters from 2014 – six on offense and five on defense. Longoria declared, “We have a good mixture of veterans and youth. We've had our fair share of injuries, but we have more quality depth this year. Thankfully, we haven't had any season-ending injuries to this point.”

The fifth year Rattler skipper explained, “We've tweaked our offensive approach some to fit what our talent lends itself to. We're planning on running the ball a little more this year because of our talent in that area. Right now Casimiro Olivarez is our best running back and offensive threat, but we're hoping other players will also step up as the year moves along...We hope to open up our offense with more passing in the coming weeks.”

Longoria stressed that sophomore starting quarterback Jason Perez “is doing an excellent job and progressing nicely both as a runner and passer. He's working within his abilities and not trying to do too much. His calm demeanor helps him in a high pressure position.”

Olivarez, who started for roughly half of the 2015 season, is the clear pacesetter at running back. The receiving corps is comprised of inside receivers Iram Galvan and Luis Garcia, outside receivers Lee Roy Lund, Victor Marquez and Jesse Oviedo, and tight end Bobby Reyes. Longoria noted that Reyes “is a proficient receiver and blocker, having won second team All-District honors in 2014. Galvan saw as much action as anyone last year, and Oviedo and Marquez also played some.” Longoria indicated that senior wide receiver and return man Aaron Leal has much experience and scored a rushing touchdown on an end-around play against Palmview.

The coach emphasized that “we had to play a lot of young guys in the offensive line last year due to injuries. The experience they gained is paying dividends...Our offensive line is shaping up to be a strong overall unit.” Three returning starters are junior left tackle Jose Guerrero, senior right guard Jaime Morin, and junior left guard Edgar Rodriguez. Starting center Dillon McGuffin, a junior, saw significant action at guard and tackle in 2014. Longoria commented that senior Brandon Garza “is doing a very good job at right tackle.”
Longoria contended, “Right now I feel our defense is the strength of our team. Their performance has kept us in every game; they've played solid football. I think our pursuit is the strong point of our defense. I thought our defense was really good last year.”

The coach declared that senior free safety Ivan Garcia “is probably the defensive leader of the team and the vocal leader of the entire team. He plays with reckless abandon at safety; he's a smart and instinctive player.” Texas Football noted that Garcia collected 46 tackles, one interception, and two tackles for loss in 2014.
Both Garcia and senior linebacker Victor Martinez received second team All-District recognition in 2014. Longoria pointed out that against Palmview, Martinez blocked two extra point tries and a likely game-winning field goal attempt in the final seconds of regulation. Longoria evaluated Martinez as “a smart player who seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Other vital defensive players are senior tackle Javier De La Torre, junior nose guard Oscar Montalvo, and senior inside linebackers Kevin Garcia and Juan Toscano. Longoria stressed that defensive backs Michael Garza and Jorge Hinojosa are “doing well in both coverage and tackling.”

Longoria emphasized that he has tremendous confidence in the range and accuracy of placekicker Joel Duarte, as well as punter Kevin Garcia.

The Rattlers are scheduled to start district play on Friday evening, Sept. 25 against the Roma Gladiators. Concerning the District 31-5A outlook, Longoria suggested, “I think our district is the toughest in the Valley, not only in football, but in virtually all sports. Edinburg Vela looks very strong, Roma will be a contender, and Mission Veterans is a perennial contender. Sharyland is always strong, and Sharyland Pioneer is an up and coming team.”