San Marcos rallies to improbable playoff-win over Westwood

Photo by Gerald Castillo

San Marcos Football

All that could be heard reverberating off the walls inside the locker room postgame was “Rattlers, Rattlers, Rattlers” as an anxious San Marcos crowd eagerly waited to embrace its team.

The night ended in celebration: San Marcos 64, Round Rock Westwood 50.

But two quarters prior, there was a different demeanor among the Rattlers in that same locker room. San Marcos found itself in a 36-14 hole at halftime.

What appeared to be the impossible, has become the familiar this season. The Rattlers rallied from 21 points and 13 points before Friday night. Down 22 points, however, was uncharted territory for this year’s Rattlers.

But behind senior quarterback Prudy Calderon, junior running back Jamon Johnson and a deafening crowd of nearly 5,000 purple-cladded fans inside San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium, the Rattlers staged a comeback from 29-0. San Marcos (10-1, 5-0 14-6A) moves onto the second round of the UIL 6A Division II playoffs after the win over Westwood (5-6, 3-3 13-6A).

Assistant head coach Gilbert Rodriguez commended the Rattlers for the performance they put on for their community, but made it clear the lessons they’ve learned along the way made a difference Friday night.

“You’ve bought into everything we’ve sold you, you take it to heart and you believe it,” Rodriguez said. “And when you believe, guys, it’s tough to stop a team that believes.

“I’m going to tell you right now, you’ve learned so many lessons. It’s like we’re in a situation and all you have to do is go back to the archives. When did we learn this? Bang, right here. Let’s go guys. Boom, let’s do it. I’m not telling you to dig a hole every time, but what I’m saying is you’ve learned your lessons throughout the season and that is what has helped you get through these big time games.”

Hope came in small doses in the second half. Some of San Marcos’ woes carried over when Westwood opened the third quarter with a pooch kick, which the Warriors recovered deep into San Marcos territory. But the Rattler defense made a stand with its back against the wall.

The Warrior kick was up but tailed wide left. No damage done.

Forty-two seconds later, Johnson picked up a pair of blocks from his receivers and made his way down the sideline. San Marcos had come within 14 points. Frustration rose on the home sideline when the ensuing Warrior return found the endzone, 43-22.

“You know, once things go bad we don’t really but our heads down.” senior cornerback Demarcus Hall said. “We like to go on to the next play and just do our thing. So, I think that’s what was big.”

San Marcos continued to answer the call down late in the third quarter. Down by 19, junior safety Jesus Aldana fielded the kick following the Westwood touchdown. Defenders made their way downfield and appeared to make a play. Aldana was getting dragged down when he pitched the ball back to Johnson.

Momentum was back in San Marcos’ favor when Johnson took the kick return down the home-sideline and brought the game within 14. The game completely changed when San Marcos forced and recovered a fumble on Westwood’s next drive.

The Rattlers went on to score three consecutive one-play drives behind the explosiveness of Calderon and Johnson. San Marcos took its first lead of the night with 8:47 remaining in the game and never gave it back up.

“For us to just pull that off like we did, I’m proud of my whole team and the coaching staff.” Johnson said. “I knew once I scored that (go-ahead) touchdown it would change the momentum of the whole game and it did. And we came out with a win.”

Calderon and Johnson finished the night with a combined 639 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Defensively, San Marcos’ turnover streak continued. A late interception by Hall ensured the offense an opportunity to extend a late lead. The Rattler offense took possession with 5:57 remaining in the game and proceeded to seal the game, 64-50.

“It’s a weird thing,” Calderon said. “Even when we’re down by as much as we were tonight, I never felt the sense of being worried. Because I know this team has been through so much and they can handle whatever. So we just had to be urgent and we went out there and did our thing in the second half.”

Correction: This story originally stated that "outside linebacker Michael Vargas fielded the kick following the Westwood touchdown. Defenders made their way downfield and appeared to make a play. Vargas was getting dragged down when he pitched the ball back to Johnson." It has been corrected to reflect the appropriate player who made the catch: Jesus Aldana. It now reads: "Down by 19, junior safety Jesus Aldana fielded the kick following the Westwood touchdown. Defenders made their way downfield and appeared to make a play. Aldana was getting dragged down when he pitched the ball back to Johnson."

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