By Ryan Lengerich
The top of each Rattler player’s four-inch wide by 11-inch long card reads “Rattler game preparation schedule” followed by a blank space.
Hand written in each space is the name of Friday’s opponent — Menaul.
Since this season’s first practice, Rattler players have used the cards to track lifting statistics and workouts as they prepare to defend last season’s AA state championship.
The Rattlers battle Menaul Friday at 7 p.m. at Rattler Stadium. Last year THS rolled Menaul 42-0 in Albuquerque in the season opener. Head coach Dub Smith said the game preparations schedules make sure his players don’t overlook teams such as Menaul.
“We have a rule, we never talk about teams two or three games down the road, we talk about only the team we’re playing,” he said.
Menaul head coach Dan Snyder said that while the school is having trouble fielding more than a varsity team with only 25 players including eighth graders, he has a strong returning class from last year. Menaul is led by returning quarterback Dominic Kitts and running back Brian Hoefler.
“We try to mix it up as best we can, we try to spread the ball around and keep teams off balance,” Snyder said. “We are expecting a tough game Friday night.”
Smith said Menaul is a balanced team with a big front line. Adding special teams, in particular the kicking game, for the first time will make a difference in a close game, he said.
“Our objective is to get them to where they have to throw the football,” Smith said. “I like to dictate what the team does and I always say if you know a team will throw the ball a bunch of times you can key on it and go get it.”
Smith said last year’s championship will not change the way he approaches the new season and won’t add any extra pressure for the season opener.
“I know one thing, it’s the coaches responsibility to get the players ready and we got a good coaching staff,” Smith said.
Quarterback convert junior Chris McCasland will make his debut Friday, which Snyder said will not significantly impact his defensive plan.
“If Tucumcari was a throwing team we could do something but they are running team,” he said.
Rattlers junior defensive end and wide receiver Nick Wiegel said establishing defensive line will be key. He said his nerves have been building all week because of Menaul’s tendency to run the option.
“All I get to do is pop the quarterback every time he comes around the corner,” he said. “All I think about is, here he comes, and he’s wide open.”
Last season the Rattlers opened the first two weeks on the road while this season’s first three games kick off at Rattlers stadium. Smith said the location is irrelevant.
“We don’t talk about playing the game at home or on the road, we talk about the opponent,” he said. “It doesn’t make a difference to us, the football field is 100-yards long and that is all that matters.”