“Easier said than done:” Rangers eager for East Central

After a week off, Smithson Valley is ready for the new-look Hornets


Danielle Esperiqueta

Juniors Americas Sanders (left) and Trey Moore jog onto the field prior to a 15-7 loss to Schertz Clemens. The pair have a big responsibility slowing down East Central RB DeAngelo Rosemond.

Jackson Posey, Sports Editor

Smithson Valley (3-2, 1-1) headed into their bye last week on a high note, following a 51-7 drubbing of the Canyon Cougars (0-5, 0-2) that saw ten players (including two kickers) put points on the board for the Rangers. But an overmatched Canyon team that stood no chance of winning stands in stark contrast to an East Central (4-1, 2-0) team riding a tidal wave of momentum. The extra week of prep time, while used mostly for general improvements rather than specific game plan items, may prove valuable heading into a tough Homecoming game. It remains to be seen if it will have much of an impact, however, thanks to East Central’s concurrent bye. Matchup-specific practices for the Rangers began this Monday, but this game has been in Larry Hill’s mind for much longer than 4-5 business days.

“From 2017 to 2018 they were the most improved team in the area. [They] went from 0-10 to [4-6], and then this year they’ve ramped it up another notch,” the Ranger coach said.
“It’s clear their program is on par with any of ours that are in this district.”

East Central was 3-1 heading into a vital home game against then-undefeated New Braunfels, and needed a statement win. They got one, with Joe Hubbard’s squad holding on for a 24-20 victory. It was a pretty good night for Hornets fans: their team closed out the game on a 21-3 run, shut the Unicorns out in the second half, and firmly planted themselves in the playoff hunt. Of course, none of this surprised the Rangers, who had been hearing the buzz around this team for a while..

“They had our full attention prior to the New Braunfels game, obviously that just proved what they felt like they already knew,” Hill said. “But maybe outsiders stood up and took a little more notice, because that was probably the best team [East Central] had played all year, and it wasn’t a fluke. They just outplayed [New Braunfels].”

The quality of play for East Central has definitely jumped this year for the Hornets, who have already matched last season’s win total. It seems like just yesterday that they fell 30-13 to these Boys in Blue – who are 6-0 all-time against the Hornets – but this year’s team is a different breed. Led by senior RB DeAngelo Rosemond (124/897/14), the Hornets have a virtually unstoppable offense.

“I think [stopping Rosemond] is a multi-pronged approach, Hill said. “We obviously have to get out there and stop him. We can’t let him go 60, 70, 80 [yards] like he’s been able to do on everybody – we’ve got to limit his options. And that’s a tall challenge for our defense, particularly if we commit too many guys to him.”

Committing too many men to the rush would be a death sentence against most teams, but the same is especially true against the Hornets. Sophomore QB Caden Bosanko (38/589/6) can really sling it, and with receivers like senior Charles Oglesby (15/298/3), the struggle is real. 

“They do have some receivers who can make plays,” Hill said. “We’ve got to rally to the football. It’s difficult to tackle in a one-on-one situation, so we’ve got to contain, we’ve got to… arrange our defense, and arrange how we play blocks so that we’re pushing the ball to multiple people. Easier said than done.  And then I think our offense and our special teams have to contribute to that as well. We’ve got to be able to cover kicks, kick deep, put them on a long field, put them in a poor field position situation, and then we’ve got to play well on first down, defensively. You know, to try to put them in long-yardage situations, where maybe they can throw the ball a little bit more. And then, offense of course has a big role in it, too. We’ve got to be able to move the ball, possess the ball, keep the ball, keep them off the field. Make them stand over there and watch us with the ball and [they] can’t do anything. So, all that’s easier said than done. Five teams have, I imagine, gone in with that same strategy, and with limited success.

Although the Hornets clearly are strong in the passing game, the ground is where they do most of their damage. And the Rangers can’t lose sight of that, ‘lest they allow Rosemond and his 7.23 yards per carry embarrass them on their own home turf.

“I think any time you play someone, you identify what they do best, and hope that you can make them go a different route,” Hill said. “Doesn’t mean they can’t [throw the ball] – they throw it pretty well. They’re a lot like us in the sense that they’ve gotten a lot of home run throws, they’re not necessarily trying to dink and dunk a whole lot… they run the football, wait until people populate the box, get a lot of people committed to the run and then try to play some one-on-one with those receivers. And, when they’ve needed it, they’ve been able to get it. So [Bosanko is] a threat, the receivers are a threat, but you can’t stop everything. So most of our focus will be on the run game, but our defensive backs will have to play well, because they’re not going to get much help; they’re going to be in one-on-one situations a lot.”

The second half of the New Braunfels game aside, the Hornets have played atrocious defensively. Of the first four teams they’ve faced, none have winning records. But all scored at least four touchdowns. That bodes poorly for a team trying to shut down an offense that averages over 30 points per game, and boasts stars like Greg Eggleston, Jacob Forton, and of course Luke Gombert’s stable of pass-catchers. Getting too focused on one approach isn’t Hill’s style, however. Eggleston, Forton, and the receivers all had great games against Canyon; they’ll need to keep it up to pace with the Hornets.

“Well, we’ll need all [of them],” Hill said plainly. “There will be times when we’ll want to grind and keep the football, and then there’ll be times when we’ll need big chunk plays… [Eggleston] makes a lot of them, but our other receivers have shown the ability to do that too when they get in one-on-one… We’ve got to cram [East Central’s] safeties in here to stop these running backs, and now we’re getting some big throws up the field. My guess is, East Central will populate the box, particularly when [Eggleston] is in the backfield, [but] when he’s split out? Maybe, maybe not. I think more than anything, we need to take care of the football. Don’t turn it over, don’t get behind the chains with penalties, and then just try to be steady. And then let our O-Line hopefully control the line of scrimmage and take over the game. Then [Eggleston], of course, as we’ve grown accustomed to, can go get us a couple ‘cheapies.’ Easier said than done… It’s a tall order.”

Hill also praised the Hornets’ defensive tackles and “talented” sophomore linebackers, but the big idea was clear, if not plainly stated: we can win this football game. As amazing as Rosemond is, as much potential as Bosenko has, as good of a win as the New Braunfels game was – it might not be enough. Even with a 45-21 opening-week loss on the books, the Rangers still have the best scoring defense in a stacked District 26-6A field, allowing just over 16 points per game. Not only that, their offense piles on 33 per contest for good measure. 

So while it’s easy to get carried away by the big numbers and impressive stats, perspective is key: Smithson Valley has a really darn good football program. And while it may be a good bit scarier than last year’s homecoming game (a 52-33 win over Canyon), fans should remain calm. By sometime in the second quarter, the Rangers will start to pull away, panic will subside, and we can laugh about those butterflies (hornets?) we got in our stomachs. And even as a scary opponent looms, Smithson Valley’s coach stays in good spirits.

“Just what we need, another good team in [District] 26-6A playing well,” Hill quipped.

PREDICTION: Rangers 41, Hornets 24