RIO GRANDE CITY — In order to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Rio Grande City Rattlers needed to do something Friday night they hadn’t done all year — win.

A victory eluded the Rattlers through their first four weeks of the season, which included a forfeit due to concerns over COVID-19.

But Friday night, everything went just right for the Rattlers as they managed to hold off the Laredo Cigarroa Toros for a 35-31 win. The victory sends the Rattlers to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in District 14-5A Division I.

“It’s been a tough season for everybody, but these guys stuck with it and I’m really happy for these guys because we finally got over that hump. I’m really proud of them for sticking with it and finishing the game out,” Rio Grande City head coach Leo Mireles III said.

In close losses earlier this year against Edcouch-Elsa and Zapata, RGC saw leads evaporate late. Against Cigarroa, the Rattlers gave 17 straight points before senior running back Marc Perez made his presence felt.

Down three with just less than 5 minutes remaining in the game, Perez carried the Rattlers down field with hard-nosed running and swift moves in the open field. After a Perez run set the Rattlers up at the Cigarroa 5-yard line, quarterback Kevin Guerra ran in the game-winning touchdown on a draw up the middle.

“We were tired, I was out of breath, but we just needed to pick it up and get the win,” Perez said of the Rattlers’ final drive that ended with a touchdown. “It felt great getting our first win of the season. At halftime, we came together as a team and coach Mireles fired us up as a team.”

Perez finished the game with more than 300 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.

“Marc (Perez) is crazy because he continues to get bigger and bigger for us. His role in the game, he understands that we’re going to give him more,” Mireles said. “He came up big on that last drive playing both ways. He’s been huge for this team and understands his role and how everybody leans on him. I’m super proud of him.”

The Toros had a chance to respond as they took over trailing by four with just 3 minutes left, but the Rattlers defense buckled down and forced a turnover on downs.

Cigarroa was led offensively by running back Oscar Vez and quarterbacks Hector Solis and Yaaqob Lozano. Solis and Lozano connected on one touchdown pass, while each came through with momentum swinging touchdown runs for the Toros during the second half.

It wasn’t enough.

“We talked about how we lost that Edcouch game at the end, that Zapata game at the end. We said once we learn how to finish a game, we’re going to turn our season around,” Mireles said.

Guerra, RGC’s junior quarterback, finished with one touchdown run and one touchdown throw to Miguel Garcia, who was on the receiving end of a 76-yard bomb for a Rattler touchdown.

Next up for the Rattlers is another District 14-5A Division matchup, facing Laredo Martin at 7 p.m. Thursday in Laredo.

bramos@themonitor.com