PHARR — When first-year head coach Leo Mireles III took over the Rio Grande City football program in January, he believed two things — the Rattlers possessed the talent to turn into a playoff team, and they could compete for a district championship right away.

Mireles proved right Thursday night as his Rattlers (8-1, 7-1) topped PSJA Southwest 28-14 at PSJA Stadium to clinch Rio Grande City’s first postseason berth since the 2013 season.

“ This is something awesome, something we’ve been talking about since the beginning. We believed it and here we are now,” Mireles said after the playoff-clinching victory. “I don’t have the words to explain how happy we are to put Rio back in the playoffs again.”

Now 8-1 overall with one game to go, 2019 is Rio Grande City’s winningest season in more than 15 years.

Senior running back Angel Galvan, who has been on varsity since his sophomore season, said this year’s group stuck together, took one game at a time, and fought until the end each time the Rattlers took the field.

“ We have a brotherhood at Rio Grande City and the whole team means so much to me. We kept believing in ourselves,” Galvan said. “We talked to each other that we were going to make it (to the playoffs). Coach Mireles is a really good coach and he works so hard to help us get here.”

PSJA Southwest didn’t make clinching a playoff berth easy on the Rattlers, either. The Javelinas’ defense came up big with two forced fumbles and recoveries in the opening half, the first on a strip-sack by defensive lineman Jacob Alvarado which he returned 35 yards for a Southwest touchdown.

But it was only a matter of time until the Rio Grande City offense, ranked No.1 in District 16-5A DI, got rolling.

Galvan scored two first-half rushing touchdowns and quarterback Mario Garza connected with Aaron Marroquin for a 26-yard score to give the Rattlers a 21-14 lead heading into the locker room. In the second half, Garza again found Marroquin in the back of the end zone for another RGC touchdown.

“ We started out weak, but we got together in the second quarter, did some work at halftime and were able to put some points on the board,” Garza said.

Marroquin finished with eight catches for 107 yards and two receiving touchdowns, while Garza went 17 for 23 for 188 yards and two passing scores. Galvan also chipped in with 172 all-purpose yards and two rushing touchdowns.

“ Southwest did an awesome job tonight. They showed up and played and we were able to hold them off and handle adversity,” Mireles said.

With a playoff spot in hand, the Rattlers will close out their 2019 regular season in Week 11 against Brownsville Pace (5-3, 5-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium in Rio Grande City.

“ I give my hats off to these kids. Everything we talked about since January, since spring ball, that we were going to have an opportunity to do it. They gave me a chance, they gave the coaches a chance and here we are clinching playoffs a week before,” Mireles said.

bramos@themonitor.com