Saturday, July 21, 2018
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20170811 SHS-Football 6 BRTo reach a team’s fullest potential in football, depending on the man next to you is pivotal.


The Sharyland Rattlers and Head Coach Ron Adame enter the 2017 football season focused on building a team whose strength and success comes from relying on each other.


“We’ve never been a program or a team that’s centered around one young man or one individual, but rather a team of individuals that all rally together; that forms power in unity,” Adame said.


Last season, the Rattlers finished third in District 31-5A with a 7-4 (6-2) record and lost in the bi-district round of the playoffs to Mercedes 17-7. Eight starters returning from last year’s team will be looked upon to lead this year’s group.


Sharyland will test themselves early in the season with a scrimmage against the Harlingen Cardinals and non-district games against the Weslaco East Panthers and Edinburg North Cougars, all playoff teams a year ago. That will be followed by the eight-district grind of District 31-5A.


Senior linebacker Noe Cortez says the tough non-district schedule will be beneficial to the Rattlers in the long-run, as they’ll have been battle-tested early and often.


“We have two really good 6A teams up our first two weeks and then our district is extremely competitive week to week; there’s no team that’s any less good than any other team,” Cortez said. “We know that defensively, doing our job is extremely crucial to help the offense…those 6A teams are going to prepare us for our eight-week district.”


While the Rattlers eagerly await the start of fall practice Monday morning, Aug. 14, the work started in spring ball as Adame and his staff identified players who will contribute and assume key roles for Sharyland this season.


The Rattler defense proved to be one of the best in 31-5A a year ago, and while only three starters are returning, Sharyland’s “9-5-90%” philosophy, nine guys within five yards of the ball 90 percent of the time, causes problems for offenses year-in-and-year-out.


The Rattlers’ linebacker core will give Sharyland a veteran presence in the middle of the field defensively with two of the team’s top tacklers a year ago returning in Javo Lopez and Cortez.


Lopez hopes to set a tone right out of the gates that lets opponents know the Sharyland defense is ready for anything and everything.


“I’d like to set a tone that the whole defense can handle everything,” he said. “We’re a good run defense, a good pass defense, and we can defend anything that’s thrown our way.”


Lopez, a junior middle linebacker, earned Second Team All-District honors for his play last season and is back to lead the Rattler defense. Cortez finished the year with 58 tackles and one sack while Lopez led the Rattlers with 113 tackles and five sacks of his own.


On the other side of the ball, the Rattlers’ offensive line will be relied upon heavily to consistently create room for the new additions getting acclimated to playing under the bright lights. Returning starters are juniors Gabriel Martinez, Josh Williams and senior Xavier Luna, who, with their size and experience playing together, give Sharyland a formidable frontline weapon.


Martinez, who earned honorable mention honors for his play as a sophomore, said he’s ready for the load the offensive line will carry this season.


“Knowing that we have three returning players makes me feel relieved knowing that I can trust the guys next to me—I know they’re not going to give up,” he said. “Knowing that we’re playing a big role puts a lot of pressure on us, but we’re not afraid to take challenges.”


Taking over under center for the Rattlers is junior quarterback Edgar Longoria. Longoria served in a backup role behind senior starter Alan Alvarez last year, but when injury struck, he had no problem filling in and leading Sharyland to two victories over Mission Veterans Memorial and Rio Grande City with the team’s playoff lives on the line.


Longoria is coming off an injury, but if 100 percent healthy, Adame has full confidence in his command of the Sharyland offense and what he can do on the field.


Senior slot receiver Blake Klein, one of Sharyland’s most versatile offensive weapons, returns for his senior year. Klein was voted a unanimous First Team All-District selection for carving up defenses—he carried the ball for 485 yards and four touchdowns while bringing in 28 receptions for 634 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games last season.


Klein, who Adame likened to a kid with passion having fun playing backyard football, has confidence the Rattler offense can be as lethal as ever in 2017.


“I’d like our offense to be seen as quick, and tire out defenses as best we can,” Klein said. “We hope to win every game. With Edgar and our three returning offensive linemen, I think we’ll be able to do some damage.”


The Rattlers will begin with preseason action against the Harlingen Cardinals at 7:30 p.m. on Friday Aug. 25 in Harlingen. The season officially kicks off on Sept. 1 when Sharyland pays a visit to Weslaco East for a non-district matchup.


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