A snake in their cleats

Football will begin their playoff journey Friday against Reagan


Tim Tschoepe

Linebacker Darlington Frasch rests on the sideline. Frasch will be critical in the Rangers’ quest to slow down Rattler running back Carson Green.

Jackson Posey, Sports Editor

It’s been five years since Smithson Valley (5-2, 7-2) and Reagan (8-0, 9-1) last played, and the stakes are as high as ever.

In 2015, Josh Adkins and the 7-3 Rangers locked down the undefeated Rattlers in the opening round of the playoffs, holding then-Reagan quarterback Kellen Mond to just eight completions on 21 attempts in a 17-7 win.

This Friday the teams will meet again, in a contest between two teams that look more like painted clones than rival factions.

Both teams’ strong offensive lines and run-first offenses are backed by a dual-threat quarterback, whose primary target is a big-bodied receiver who wins with technical prowess. Both teams have a versatile edge rusher who can convert speed to power with ease, and has a future in Division I football. Both have a consistently strong special teams unit. And both beat a team that at the time was considered the best in the San Antonio area.

And all of that is without mentioning their close geographic proximity and longstanding cultural rivalry. But all of that history will be set aside on Friday, and whatever animosity remains will have to be settled on the field. 

The Rangers have one of the best defenses in the San Antonio area, permitting just over 13 points per game. But they’ll have their hands full with a Rattler offense that averages 38 points per contest.

“They’re just so good at every position,” said Smithson Valley head coach Larry Hill. “Offensively, their line is extremely good. [Running back Carson Green] of course gets a lot of notoriety, for good reason, but yet they’ve [also] got a quarterback that can not only can, but has hurt people real badly with his feet, but yet throws the ball with great efficiency. 

“And they have a couple of receivers that often get in one-on-one situations … and they’ve proven time and time again that they can win that matchup.”

Led by southpaw quarterback Britton Moore (1,632 total yards, 17 touchdowns) and running back Green (1,062 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns), the Reagan offense has put up more than a few big games, notably including a 52-21 win over then-No. 1 Johnson. 

To slow down Green, the Rangers will need linebackers Darlington Frasch (68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Malachi Lane (69 tackles, 14 tackles for loss) to resume locking down opposing ground attacks after allowing 358 yards rushing to Judson last week.

On the other side of the ball, Reagan’s defense is holding opponents to just 14.5 points per game, and hasn’t allowed a single opponent to score over 28 points.

“Defensively, they’ve got [defensive end Pryce Yates], but [overall are] just so sound and so solid, always in good position,” Hill said. “They aren’t trying to be junky or flashy. They just play really good technique defense, and you just don’t see them give up very many big plays.”

The Rattler defense hadn’t surrendered more than a touchdown in consecutive games until late in the season, when their final three opponents each dropped over 20 points. 

Similarly, the Ranger defense has allowed over seven points in consecutive games just once this season, and in their final stretch, too – in their final two games, they allowed 14 points to Steele and 32 points to Judson.

The Rattler’s average margin of victory this season is less than a touchdown higher than the Rangers’ (a 5.83-point difference), and their tPAA margin (+7.32) is a few points higher. And they’ll have home-field advantage by virtue of having a higher seed.

Still, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s computer lists the game as a pick’em, mostly due to the Rangers’ strength of schedule.

The two teams share two common opponents: Steele and Madison. The Rattlers narrowly beat Steele, who narrowly beat the Rangers, and all three easily handled Madison. But it’s the other games that could give Smithson Valley the edge.

Both teams have played five playoff teams, including one district champion apiece. But this game is certainly the most important either team has played this season. Two teams will enter, but only one will emerge victorious.

Football will kick off their bi-district playoff game against Reagan at Heroes Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The game will be streamed live on Texas Sports Productions