In a victory that significantly improved their chances of achieving a playoff berth, the Rio Grande City Rattlers used a second half offensive explosion to trounce the Brownsville Veterans Charges 36-13 in a District 16-5A Division I battle at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium Friday night. Both teams entered Friday night’s contest with 2-1 district records and season marks of 3-1. Brownsville Veterans achieved a playoff berth in 2018 and pundits have evaluated the Chargers as one of the district’s stronger teams. The game was a rugged defensive struggle in the first half, with a scoreless first quarter. The Rattlers broke through with a touchdown with 10 seconds left until intermission to take a 7-0 lead. They scored on a long pass on the last play of the third quarter to take a 23-7 advantage into the final stanza. The Rattlers shredded the Charger defense for 463 total yards and 336 yards passing. Rattler quarterback Mario Garza threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. Backup quarterback Kevin Guerra aided the offensive onslaught with a 76-yard scoring bomb to Allan Garcia. Angel Galvan, Artemio Alvarez and Garcia each caught scoring passes for the Rattlers. Charger quarterback Liam Longoria accounted for most of his team’s offense with scoring runs of 50 and 67 yards. The Rattler defense contained the Chargers for most of the game, and came up with two crucial first half interceptions to keep Veterans off the scoreboard. On the game’s opening possession, the Rattlers, ignited by a 32-yard completion to Angel Galvan, drove to the Veterans 28, but the drive fizzled when Mario Garza was sacked at the 37 for a seven-yard loss. The Chargers drove from their 12 all the way to the Rio 12 as J.R. Moran and quarterback Liam Longoria ripped off runs of 24 and 17 yards and Elijah Masten contributed a 16-yard reception. After a 17-yard romp by Longoria to the Rattler 12, the quarterback fired a pass across the middle, but the ball was deflected and Leo Garcia made the interception at the 2 and returned the ball to the 8 to end the drive. After Rattler punts into a fierce wind, the Chargers began their next two possessions at the Rio 44 and 33. The Chargers could do nothing with either opportunity, and the second chance died when a third and five pass from the Rattler 28 was intercepted by Marc Perez at the 16 and returned 18 yards to the 34. The Rattlers then drove to the Charger 23, but the drive ended when a fourth and 15 pass from the 34 was just over the intended receiver’s outstretched hands in the left corner of the end zone. Late in the first half, the Rattlers broke the scoreless tie with a 60-yard scoring march. On third and eight at the Veterans 36, Marc Perez lined up at quarterback and scampered through left tackle for an 11-yard gain to the 25. Three plays later, Garza connected with Artemio Alvarez for a 21-yard completion to the 2. On first and goal, Garza kept the ball through left tackle and powered his way across the goal line for a two-yard scoring run with 10 seconds left until halftime. Robelin Montez’s extra point kick gave the Rattlers a 7-0 lead going into intermission. The Rattlers kicked off into a stiff breeze to start the second half and recovered the bouncing kick, untouched by the Chargers, at the Veterans 37. A 22-yard completion by Garza advanced the ball to the 17, and a pass interference penalty against Veterans gave Rio a first and goal at the 4. On third and goal, Marc Perez took the “wildcat” snap, but was dropped at the 11 for a 2-yard loss. Montez then booted a 28-yard field goal into the strong wind with 8:48 left in the third quarter to boost the Rattlers to a 10-0 advantage. On the ensuing kickoff, a 15-yard fair catch interference penalty against Rio gave Veterans the ball at midfield. On the first play, Longoria kept the ball through left guard, broke into the open, and motored into the end zone untouched for a 50-yard touchdown romp with 8:35 left in the third stanza to draw the Chargers to within 10-7. The Rattlers quickly countered with a 75-yard scoring drive, and Angel Galvan got things rolling with a 13-yard romp to the Rio 45. A 12-yard completion to Aaron Marroquin moved the ball to the Veterans 43, and personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against the Chargers on the play advanced the Rattlers to the 14 and also resulted in a Charger defender being ejected from the game. On third and 13, Garza lofted a pass down the right side and Galvan made a lunging catch just across the goal line with exactly seven minutes left in the third quarter. The Rattler lead remained 16-7 when the extra point attempt was wide. Later in the third stanza, the Rattlers were forced to punt, but a roughing the kicker penalty against the Chargers gave Rio a first down at its 36. Garza and Galvan scampered for gains of 10 and 12 yards to move the ball to the 37. As time expired in the third quarter, Garza arched a high pass that Artemio Alvarez caught inside the 10 and the receiver darted into the end zone for a 37-yard scoring pass to increase the Rattler margin to 23-7. Liam Longoria tried to rally the Chargers with a 36-yard romp to the Rio 41. He followed that play with a 16-yard completion to Elijah Masten to move the ball to the 25. The Rattler defense, however, sacked Longoria, knocked the ball loose, and recovered the fumble at the 29. On third and 15, backup quarterback Kevin Guerra lofted a high pass down the left side that Allan Garcia caught just short of the Charger 40, and the receiver raced into the end zone untouched for a 76-yard scoring bomb with 8:50 left in the contest to increase Rio’s advantage to 30-7. On a fourth down play just inside Rattler territory, Longoria was sacked at the Charger 47 for a six-yard loss. A 13-yard run by Galvan and a 15-yard reception by Ricky Falcon advanced the ball to the 5. On second and goal, Mario Garza kept the ball and powered through right tackle across the goal line for a two-yard scoring run with 4:29 remaining. The Rattlers’ lead remained 36-7 when a bad snap fouled up the extra point attempt. On a fourth down play at the Veterans 33, the Chargers went for the first down and Longoria kept the ball through left tackle, broke to the outside, and scampered down the sideline untouched for a 67-yard scoring romp with 2:56 left. The try for two points failed when Rudy Bazan intercepted a pass. A short time later, the final gun sounded and the Rattlers walked off the field with a convincing 36-13 victory. The Rattlers harvested 463 total yards, 336 yards passing and 127 yards rushing. Mario Garza completed 25 of 38 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. Kevin Guerra’s one pass completion was good for a 76-yard touchdown. Allan Garcia caught two passes for 98 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown bomb. Artemio Alvarez provided three receptions for 65 yards, including a 37-yard scoring catch. Angel Galvan contributed eight catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Aaron Marroquin collected 10 catches for 70 yards. Galvan paced the Rattlers on the ground with 79 yards on 15 carries. Marc Perez, Leo Garcia and Rudy Bazan ignited the Rattler defense with one interception apiece. Perez and Eleazar Garcia led the defense with nine and eight tackles, respectively, and Rudy Bazan and Devin Gonzalez contributed five tackles apiece. Andres Martinez and Anthony Ortiz chipped in with four tackles each. Rudy Bazan deflected two passes, and Perez contributed one pass breakup. Derek Serna was credited with 1.5 sacks, and Jose Vasquez and J.J. Bocanegra contributed one sack each. Luis Hernandez also made a crucial fumble recovery, and the fumble was caused by Daniel Falcon. The Rattler defense forced four turnovers and held the Chargers to 352 total yards, 247 yards rushing and 105 yards passing. Quarterback Liam Longoria provided most of the Chargers’ rushing output with 198 yards on 17 carries and scoring runs of 50 and 67 yards. Longoria also completed 12 of 25 passes for 105 yards. The Rattlers, now 3-1 in district play and 4-1 overall, have a short week as they will face the PSJA Memorial Wolverines on the road this Thursday at 7 p.m. in another district clash.
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