Wounded Rattlers battle NMMI

By Ryan Lengerich

The Rattlers will face the team that could be the best they play all year — and they will do it shorthanded.

Junior starting quarterback Chris McCasland and senior running back Rob McClelland are both questionable for Friday night’s game. The Rattlers (4-0) meet Class 3A New Mexico Military Institute (4-0) at 7 p.m. in Roswell.

“I think injuries can become a crutch and we are not going to go out a look for that,” said Rattler head coach Dub Smith. “The ones we have healthy are going to be playing and they are going to do a good job.”

The Rattlers are coming off their first road win of the season at Raton. McCasland exited the game after the second offensive series. His sophomore replacement Josh Benevidez rushed 10 times for 44-yards and a touchdown and completed a 25-yard passing strike to junior Nick Wiegel. But leading the team to victory against Raton hasn’t calmed Benevidez down completely.

“I am kind of nervous, I just hope I don’t mess up,” Benevidez said. “In the beginning I think nerves can be a good thing but if you stay nervouse that is not good.”

Wiegel was equally uneasy last week when Benevidez took over. The Rattlers fell behind three times in the first half before tying the game at halftime. It was the second half where the Rattlers wore down the Tigers on their way to a 20-point victory.

“I was a little nervious last week when he went in,” Wiegel said. “But he got into a rhythm and I was really surprised because of his size but he has so much skill and so much heart. I thought he played really good.”

Smith’s play-calling this weekend against NMMI will not vary from what his team would run with McCasland at the helm. He said Benevidez’s quick feet and pension for the option gives him the two quarterbacks similar strengths.

“He did an outstanding job from the time he stepped on the field so I have tremendous confidence in him,” Smith said. “To make the long haul you need people like that to step in.”

NMMI defeated Tucumcari’s rival Santa Rosa 35-20 in week two. Smith said this will be the only time this year the Rattlers will face a team that plays “platoon” style football. with players only playing offense or defense rather than both sides. His team has spent more time on conditioning to prepare for NMMI.

“I would say right now this possibly could be the best team we are going to play,” Smith said.