MISSION — On Friday night at Rattler Stadium, it wasn’t the Sharyland offense that stole the show. It wasn’t even the defense, though it played one of its most complete games of the season.
No, it was the special teams. Yes, them.
The group accounted for the Rattlers’ first three scores of the night as they helped jump-start a 48-7 rout of Edinburg North to clinch a share of the District 30-5A title in The Monitor’s Game of the Week.
No. 1 Sharyland (9-0 overall, 7-0 district) can clinch the title outright with a win next week at Edinburg Vela or if Donna loses at home to La Joya Juarez-Lincoln. It would be Sharyland’s third outright district title in four years.
No. 6 North (7-2, 5-2) is now locked into third place in the district.
“It was special teams and defense,” Sharyland coach Ron Adame said. “Our second and third phases came out on fire and they set the tone.”
The fun started on the opening kickoff when Estefan Castillo hauled in the ball, sprinted a few yards and lateraled to Sean Landez near the left hash. The speedy sophomore then cut up the North sideline and went untouched for a 92-yard touchdown.
He, and the special teams, weren’t done, though.
After a punt and a rare fumble from Cesar Valdez, Frank Padron was short on his 44-yard field goal attempt. Landez caught the ball 9.9 yards deep in the end zone — just barely staying in bounds — and scampered up the Sharyland sideline and all the way in for a 109-yard TD.
Obviously, since it’s the longest possible play in football, the return tied or set all kinds of Valley and state records. Landez, though, just wanted to give it up to his blockers.
“Just trying to make a play,” he said. “My team was there to block all the guys.”
On the ensuing drive, North dropped the snap off a punt and Pepe Castillo fell on the ball in the end zone to make to 21-0. Yup, all those points and no Tres Barrera, Castillo or Valdez doing any work at all.
Instead, it was special teams and defense, the latter of which was on the field for all but 13 plays during the first half and gave up 228 yards in all.
“Our defense played lights out,” Adame said. “When you give up seven points, you’re doing something right.”
In the second half the Rattlers offense finally started clicking, getting two Castillo TD runs (first from 15, then from 45), a 19-yard Barrera pass to Marco Avila and a 40-yard strike from Barrera to Castillo to pour on the points.
By then, there was really nothing the Cougars could do but watch.
“The special teams killed us early,” North coach Roy Garza said. “Once they warmed up that machine … we don’t have an answer for No. 10 (Castillo), we don’t have an answer for Barrera.”
Castillo led Sharyland with 106 yards on the ground. Barrera, on just 15 pass attempts, threw for 118 yards. Nearly all of it came in the second half.
“You gotta give them credit, those guys had a lot to do with it,” Adame said, pointing to North. “Once we got the chains moving … we got something going.”
North, which was fronted by Matt Whitesides’ 172 rushing yards, scored its TD on a 3-yard run by Josh Vela late in the first half.
The Cougars are now locked into a bi-district matchup with Eagle Pass. Garza expects to have a date and location for that game today.
Todd Orodenker covers District 30-5A for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4431 or via email at email@example.com.