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By Kenneth Roberts, Freelance Writer

The Rio Grande City Rattlers used a dominating defense, potent offense, and excellent special teams play to trounce the Laredo Cigarroa Toros 33-3 in a District 31-5A clash at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium Friday evening.

The Rattlers got off to a fast start by scoring two touchdowns in the first six and one-half minutes to take a 13-0 lead. The rest of the first half was relatively uneventful until the Toros drove more than 60 yards to kick a field goal as the first half clock expired to make the halftime score 13-3. The Rattlers, overcoming two missed scoring chances, added a third quarter touchdown to take a 20-3 lead into the fourth quarter and ended all suspense with another touchdown 32 seconds into the final stanza.

Rattler quarterback Jason Perez threw scoring passes of 41 and 15 yards and added two short scoring runs. Javier Garcia, Elias Cobos, and Diego Garcia each contributed one touchdown catch, and backup quarterback Armando Gonzalez added a touchdown pass in the final quarter.

The Rattlers put the game out of reach late in the third quarter, scoring two plays after a blocked punt gave them the ball at the Cigarroa 8. Rio defensive back Abraham Benavides intercepted two passes, with the second theft setting up the fourth Rattler touchdown early in the final period.

After Israel Lambert returned the opening kickoff 26 yards to the Rio 37, the Rattlers executed a quick 63-yard scoring march. On the drive’s sixth play, the Rattlers confronted a fourth and four situation at the Toro 41. The Rattlers gambled and succeeded when quarterback Jason Perez threw a screen pass to the right to Javier Garcia, who cut back to the middle, broke an attempted tackle inside the 20, and scampered into the right corner of the end zone for a 41-yard scoring pass with 8:36 left in the first quarter. The score remained 6-0 when the extra point attempt was wide.

On a first down play from the Cigarroa 37, a Toros receiver caught a swing pass in the right flat and raced down the sideline, but was stripped of the ball just short of midfield and a Rattler defender scooped up the ball and was tackled at the Rio 43.

On first down, Perez kept the ball through left tackle and scampered toward the left sideline for a 20-yard gain to the Toro 37. Perez then darted for gains of 11 and 8 yards to give the Rattlers a first down at the 23. Two plays later, Perez fired a pass across the middle that Jacob Guerra caught inside the 15, and the receiver powered through a couple of defenders before finally being tackled at the 1 for a 20-yard completion. On first and goal, Perez kept the ball through right guard for a one-yard scoring run with 5:45 left in the opening quarter. Daniel Perez booted the extra point to extend the Rattlers’ lead to 13-0.

On the ensuing Cigarroa possession, the Toros, facing a fourth and one situation at their 43, gambled and quarterback Jesus Alonzo snuck through the middle for a one-yard gain to the 44 and a first down. On fourth and eight at the Rio 42, a pass on the left side was batted away inside the 35 by a Rio defender, enabling the Rattlers to take over on downs.

The remainder of the first half was largely uneventful until the Toros took over at their 20 with less than two minutes until intermission. Quarterback Jesus Alonzo completed passes of 13 and 10 yards to advance the ball to the Cigarroa 43. On fourth and two, Alonzo threw a deep pass down the right sideline that the Toro receiver caught at the Rio 23 for a 26-yard completion. Moments later, Mario Perez booted a 36-yard field goal as the first half expired, cutting the Rattlers’ margin to 13-3 going into intermission.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Toros faced a third and seven situation at their 33. Alonzo fired a pass near the left sideline, but Rattler defender Abraham Benavides picked off the throw at the Toro 47 and returned the ball to the 43. Jason Perez ripped off two 11-yard runs to give the Rattlers a first and goal at the Cigarroa 9.
On third and goal at the 3, Perez tried a keeper through right tackle, but was upended at the 4 for a one-yard loss. Daniel Perez then attempted a 21-yard field goal with just under six minutes left in the third quarter, but the kick was wide.

On third and 10 at the Toro 20, Alonzo threw a deep pass down the middle that slipped through the receiver’s hands at the Rio 45. The ensuing punt, however, hit a Rattler player in the back, enabling the Toros to fall on the ball and regain possession at their 43.

The Rattler defense then stiffened and held the Toros without a first down. On fourth and 11, the Rattlers stormed in to block a punt and the ball scooted down the left sideline before rolling out of bounds at the Toro 8. On second and goal, Perez rifled a pass across the middle that Elias Cobos caught just across the goal line for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:30 left in the third quarter. Daniel Perez kicked the extra point to boost the Rattlers to a 20-3 advantage.

On fourth down at the Toro 23, the Cigarroa punter fielded a bouncing snap and tried to run for a first down, but was tackled at the 16 to give the Rattlers another opportunity. Two plays later, however, Perez rolled to his left and aimed a pass toward the left sideline that was intercepted by a Toro defender just short of the goal line and returned to the Cigarroa 14.

Four plays later, the Toro quarterback fired a pass toward the left sideline that hit the hands of a receiver and was intercepted at the 39 by Abraham Benavides, who returned the ball 34 yards to the 5. On third and goal, Jason Perez kept the ball through right guard and darted into the end zone standing up for a one-yard scoring scamper with 11:28 left in the contest. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the Rattlers with a 26-3 margin.

Moments later, Israel Lambert returned a punt 24 yards to the Cigarroa 36. On second and 16, quarterback Armando Gonzalez kept the ball through left tackle for an 18-yard romp to the 23. On fourth and five, Gonzalez gained eight yards to the 10 on a keeper through left tackle. On second and goal, Gonzalez threw a strike across the middle that Diego Garcia caught in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard scoring pass with 5:57 remaining. Daniel Perez kicked the extra point to give the Rattlers their final victory margin of 33-3.

In the game’s final minutes, the Rattlers recovered a fumble at the Toro 38 and drove toward the goal line, but ran out the clock inside the 5 to put the finishing touches on their convincing 33-3 win.

The Rattlers accumulated 332 total yards with 130 yards passing and 202 yards rushing. Jason Perez threw two scoring passes of 41 and 15 yards to Javier Garcia and Elias Cobos, and Armando Gonzalez contributed a 13-yard touchdown strike to Diego Garcia. Perez helped the cause with two short scoring runs.  Jason Perez completed 6 passes for 100 yards, and Armando Gonzalez completed 4 passes for 30 yards.

Javier Garcia caught three passes for 52 yards, Elias Cobos achieved four receptions for 39 yards, Jacob Guerra snared one catch for 20 yards, Diego Garcia had one catch for 13 yards and Rodrigo Rodriguez contributed one pass for 6 yards.

Jason Perez also supplied the bulk of the Rattler rushing attack with 127 yards on 25 carries.  Armando Gonzalez had 31 yards on 5 carries.  Javier Garcia, Jr. had 13 yards on 4 carries, and Jaime Gomez had 12 yards on 3 carries.  Also gaining rushing yardage were Leo Serna with 8, Macario Garcia with 6 and Diego Garcia with 5.

The Toros harvested 254 total yards, 113 yards passing and 46 yards rushing.

No individual or team statistics for the Toros were available as of early Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2.

The Rattlers improved their overall record to 5-1 and their district mark to 3-1. They will attempt to further boost their playoff and district title chances when they battle a strong Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks team on the road this Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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