By Ryan Lengerich
Two scrimmages, seven wins, two disappointments and one district championship later — the Rattlers can finally breath.
Tucumcari will not play their final regular season game Friday against Dexter, a team they could meet in the first round of the playoffs.
The team’s coaches mutually decided to cancel the game for fear the two teams would meet on two consecutive weeks.
“They felt like we did that it would be a no win situation for both teams, so end result we mutually agreed to cancel the ball game,” said Rattler head coach Dub Smith.
Tucumcari, the district 2 champion, will meet the district 3 second place finisher Nov. 8, in Tucumcari. State playoff rules stipulate that if the two teams are separated by more than 150 miles the game must be played on a Saturday. The time is to be determined.
District three’s fate depends on the Estancia vs. Tularosa winner Friday at Estancia. Dexter, which has defeated Tularosa will finish second should Estancia win. With an Estancia loss by six or more points, Dexter would be crowned champion and Tularosa would finish second.
An Estancia loss by 10 points or less sets up a rematch between Estancia and Tucumcari, a game the Rattlers won in week four.
Friday will be the first week of rest for the wounded Rattlers since the team opened preseason Aug. 15 with the Purple and Gold scrimmage. Santa Rosa opted for an idle week prior to Friday’s loss to the Rattlers.
Smith said he chose not to schedule a free week during the season to keep his players sharp.
“The only reason for me to have an open date is if you’re banged up,” Smith said.
Nick Wiegel is nursing a nagging knee injury, Michael Baca has swelling in an ankle he rolled Friday, Joe Sisneros is wearing a bandage on his ring finger and other players are suffering the bruising that go with 11 straight weeks of football.
“I think it will be a benefit to us,” Smith said. “We really need the time.”
The Rattler lifted weights and watched film Monday while Tuesday was a helmet only practice. Smith said the rest of the week will be scaled down from a normal practice week.
Sophomore running back Eric Holt said the team will need the off week. Holt may need the rest after running for 128-yards and a touchdown against Santa Rosa. The speedy Holt added three touchdowns in the district opener against Clayton the week before.
But for Holt, playoff preparation will not be completely physical.
“We are not mentally prepared — we have been screwing around in the locker room thinking we are going to win these games like cake and it is not like that,” Holt said. “We’re physically prepared but we’re not there mentally.”
Since Friday’s emotional win, the team and staff have been able to take a step back and enjoy their accomplishment. For senior Joe Sisneros, the win vindicates the senior class.
“Last time we won district I was a freshman and I didn’t get to play that game,” Sisneros said. “This year we did it ourselves.”
Smith rallied his team from down 20 points in the second half to beat Clayton and watched his team move the ball 65-yards for a game winning touchdown late in the game against Santa Rosa.
“The last two weeks they did what they had to do to win a district championship — they made some plays they had to make,” Smith said. “So I think they are very deserving of being district champs.”