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By Kenneth Roberts

Freelance Writer

The Laredo Martin Tigers capitalized on the explosive running and accurate passing of quarterback Matthew Duron to edge the Rio Grande City Rattlers 20-16 in a District 31-5A battle at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium Friday night.

The Rattlers scored in the last two minutes of the opening quarter to seize a 7-0 lead, only to see the Tigers execute a quick scoring drive to tie the contest at 7-7 before a minute had elapsed in the second quarter. After the Rattlers kicked a field goal, the Tigers hit a 20-yard scoring pass with six seconds remaining until halftime to take a 14-10 lead that they would not relinquish.

The Tigers took command of the game in the third quarter with a time-consuming 80-yard scoring drive that built their margin to 20-10. The Rattlers, however, stormed back into contention when quarterback Jason Perez threw a scoring pass to Diego Garcia with just over seven minutes remaining. The Rattlers had two more opportunities, the second resulting from a fumble recovery near midfield, but were unable to seriously threaten the Martin end zone.

Jason Perez accounted for both Rattler touchdowns with scoring passes to Javier Garcia and Diego Garcia, and placekicker Daniel Perez booted a 26-yard field goal. The Rattlers quarterback also enjoyed consistent success running the ball for most of the evening. Tiger quarterback Matthew Duron threw two scoring passes and repeatedly scrambled for significant rushing yardage.

Midway through the first quarter, a bad snap sailed wide of the Tiger punter, who scooped up the ball inside the Martin 30 and raced down the left sideline, but was tackled at the Rio 46 for no gain, giving the Rattlers the ball on downs at that point. The Rattlers, however, could only gain seven yards on three plays.

Later in the opening stanza, the Rattlers unleashed an 82-yard scoring drive as Jason Perez fired a pass across the middle for a 27-yard completion to the Rio 45. Perez then kept the ball through the middle and dodged numerous defenders for a 27-yard scamper to the Martin 29. Six plays later, Perez threw a screen pass to the right to Javier Garcia, who wiggled through several would-be tacklers and darted into the end zone standing up for a 15-yard scoring pass with 1:47 left in the first period. Daniel Perez booted the extra point to increase Rio’s margin to 7-0.

The Tigers quickly countered with a 75-yard scoring march, aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty against the Rattlers, as Matthew Duron broke free for romps of 12 and 23 yards. On first and goal, Angel Davila ran a sweep around right end and struggled through several Rattler defenders to lunge across the goal line for a six-yard scoring run with 11:01 left until halftime. The successful extra point kick moved the Tigers into a 7-7 tie.

The Rattlers responded with a drive from their 37 that ultimately led to a field goal. Leo Serna and Jason Perez broke runs of 11 and 21 yards to move the Rattlers to the Martin 22, with Perez’s scamper coming on a fourth and one play. Perez then gained 12 yards on a keeper through right guard to give the Rattlers another first down at the Tiger 10. After three plays gained only one yard, the Rattlers attempted a 26-yard field goal and Daniel Perez’s kick sailed between the uprights with 7:41 left until intermission to give the Rattlers a 10-7 advantage.

Later in the second period, the Rattlers gambled on fourth and one at their 41, but Perez was stopped for a one-yard loss, giving the Tigers the ball at the Rio 40. The Tigers achieved one first down, but a fourth and seven screen pass at the 23 fell incomplete, giving the ball back to the Rattlers.

After forcing the Rattlers to punt, the Tigers set up shop at their 39 and moved into scoring range when Duron connected with Matthew Carreon for a 17-yard completion to the Rio 31. Moments later, Duran arched a deep pass into the left corner of the end zone and Carreon made a diving catch for a 20-yard scoring pass with six seconds left in the first half. The successful conversion gave the Tigers a 14-10 margin going into intermission.

After holding the Rattlers without a first down on the opening series of the third quarter, the Tigers executed an 80-yard, 14-play scoring drive with two crucial third down conversions. On a third and six play, Duron slipped but regained his footing and scrambled through the middle for a 14-yard gain to the Rio 38. Two plays later, Javier Martinez scampered through left tackle for a 13-yard pickup to the 21.

Four plays later, Duron rolled to his right and hit a wide open Matthew Carreon in the end zone for a five-yard scoring pass with 4:05 left in the third period. The extra point attempt was wide, leaving the Tigers with a 20-10 advantage.

On their next possession, Martin seriously threatened again as Duron and Javier Martinez ripped off runs of 15 and 27 yards to advance the ball to the Rattler 8. On third and goal, however, Duron was sacked at the 24 for a 13-yard loss. On fourth and goal at the 24, a screen pass to the right was stopped at the 15, giving the Rattlers the ball on downs at that spot.

The Rattlers then began an 85-yard scoring drive as Perez connected with Victor Marquez and Javier Garcia for completions of 12 and 18 yards. On a first and seven play after a holding penalty, Perez connected with Garcia near the right sideline for a 23-yard completion to the 14.

Two plays later, Perez dropped back and threw a strike across the middle that Diego Garcia caught in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 7:13 left in the game. The Rattlers still faced a 20-16 deficit after a pass for two points fell incomplete.

After forcing the Tigers to punt, the Rattlers briefly gained an opportunity when Israel Lambert returned the kick down the left sideline for almost 30 yards, but the ball was knocked loose and the Tigers recovered at their 40. Three plays later, the Tigers tried a screen pass to the left, but the receiver was stripped of the ball and the Rattlers recovered at their 48 with just over two minutes remaining.

The “must score” Rattler drive started well when Perez kept the ball through the right side for an 11-yard gain to the Martin 36. Two plays later, however, a screen pass to the left was stopped at the 46 for a 10-yard loss. On fourth and 20, Perez was sacked at the Rio 48 for a six-yard loss to eliminate the last Rattler victory hopes. The Tigers then ran out the clock to clinch their 20-16 triumph.

The Rattlers accumulated 302 total yards with 137 yards passing and 165 yards rushing. Jason Perez completed 15 of 23 passes for 137 yards and connected with Javier Garcia and Diego Garcia for scoring strikes.  Javier Garcia caught four passes for 52 yards, Elias Cobos achieved four receptions for 45 yards, Diego Garcia snared three catches for 28 yards, and Victor Marquez contributed three passes for 19 yards.

Jason Perez also supplied the bulk of the Rattler rushing attack with 146 yards on 18 carries.  Leo Serna had 17 yards on 4 carries and Diego Garcia had a 4 yard run.

The Tigers harvested 395 total yards, 105 yards passing and 290 yards rushing.

The Rattlers, now 3-1 for the season and 1-1 in district play, will face the Roma Gladiators, their Starr County rival, this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Roma in a crucial district clash. The game will be critical for both teams, but especially for the Gladiators, who have already sustained two district losses.

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