By Ryan Lengerich
Clever, crafty, sneaky, deceptive, illusive — call it what you want.
Santa Rosa is simply effective.
“They run a lot of motion and they do a great job of disguising the football,” said Rattler head coach Dub Smith.
The Rattlers (6-2) can clinch the District 3 championship with a win against rival Santa Rosa (5-2) 7 p.m. Friday at Rattler Stadium.
If the game isn’t packing enough significance, it’s also the first time the two teams will meet since last season’s state championship game when the Rattlers defeated the Lions 10-9.
“We’re going to have to play well because this is the championship game anyway you look at it,” Smith said. “If they win they are the only undefeated team and they are on the road to the championship.”
The Rattlers weren’t talking district championships early in the third quarter Friday in the district opener at Clayton. The Rattlers trailed 20-0 before scoring 28 unanswered points from the 3 minute mark in the third quarter.
Sophomore Eric Holt scored three touchdowns in the game.
“Eric has really emerged as a game breaker, but I wasn’t surprised because Eric showed himself as a game breaker last year.”
Santa Rosa is unlike any team the Rattlers have seen this year. They have traditionally ran a “single wing” offense with short, quick players who hide the ball and create diversions.
“They are very deceptive with the offense carrying out their fakes,” said Rattler defensive coordinator Wayne Ferguson. “You have to prepare for it in one week compared to a normal offense which you see week after week.”
Senior A.J. Molinas said the Lion’s trick style offense always presents a challenge.”
“Their offense is a little confusing but if you play defense and you just play hard and you can stop it,” Molinas said.
If a district championship is not motivation enough, the Rattlers could also wrap up home field advantage in the first round of the playoff. With away games often across the state, home field advantage is crucial.
“That is real important when you’re talking about driving to Hatch or Lordsburg or places like that and not many of your fans can make it,” said junior Nick Wiegel.
Smith is 3-3 against the Lions including last year’s state final, but the Lions have won the last two regular season meetings.
“Overall they are not real big but they are real quick, they are well coached and disciplined,” he said. “I don’t think any fans are going to be disappointed Friday night.”