With three games left on the regular schedule, Del Rio’s first chance to possibly secure a spot in the postseason comes tonight against Laredo United South.
However, the game won’t be an easy contest because United South is healthy and dangerous.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Walter Levermann Ram Stadium. Tonight is also Senior Parents Night, and the seniors on the Rams, Belles, cheerleaders and trainers, and their parents, will be honored before the game.
Last season the Rams pulled off a 25-23 win over the Panthers. It was Del Rio’s final win of the season and it was due in large part to South being without their usual starting quarterback, who was out due to injury, and running back Brian Benavides’ being limited by an injury of his own.
This year, however, Benavides is healthy and quarterback Efrain Hernandez, who was the signal caller against Del Rio last season, have been a pretty stout combination for the Panthers.
South opened the season with three straight losses, but have won four straight since including a perfect 3-0 mark in district. Those wins have come against Laredo Nixon and 2018 playoff teams Laredo Alexander and Eagle Pass. The average margin of victory in those games – 24.3 points.
That show of force has South tied atop the district standings with Laredo United, which is on a six-game winning streak.
While Benavides has picked up right where he left off last season, it’s been the return of Hernandez that has really sparked the Panthers. According to Chris Jackson of the Laredo Morning Times, South’s offense has scored a touchdown on 22-of-26 possessions since Hernandez’s return in week four against Southwest, a 42-35 win for South.
South likes to run. If the defense allows them, the Panthers will run all day. Against Eagle Pass, Hernandez completed just four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, but he rushed for 75 yards and a score. Benavides was even more dynamic, rushing for 242 yards and three scores on 27 carries. It’s the fifth straight game the junior has eclipsed the 200-yard mark and leaves him with 1,431 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns this season.
But the offense isn’t the Panthers’ only weapon. Defensively, South was able to throttle the Eagles. They forced a turnover, had nine tackles for loss and held Eagle Pass to 57 rushing yards, according to the Laredo Morning Times.
The Rams are coming off a 31-21 win over the Laredo Nixon Mustangs. It was Del Rio’s second straight win and matched their win total from each of the past two seasons.
Del Rio trailed 14-10 at halftime before outscoring the Mustangs 21-7 in the second half.
The win also improved the Rams’ season record to 2-5, but it moved the Rams to 2-1 in district and into a tie for third place along with Eagle Pass and Laredo Alexander.
The Rams’ keys to victory tonight are simple.
Del Rio’s defense has been susceptible to the run much of this season, so the front line and linebackers will need to be on the same page to contain South’s powerful running game. In the first half against Nixon, the Mustangs were able to gouge the Rams for big gains on the ground, but Del Rio made the proper adjustments in the second half and held Nixon to just one score.
Tackling is going to be key for the Rams. Trying to show their strength with big hits won’t cut it. The Rams defense is going to need to hit and wrap up and if it takes three or four players to take down a ball carrier, so be it. Fundamentals are going to be the key to stopping South or forcing them to change their game plan.
On offense, the Rams have to hold onto the ball. Turnovers helped keep Nixon in the game last week because Del Rio was bigger and stronger than the Mustangs and shouldn’t have trailed at any time in that game. When you turn the ball over and give the opposing team a short field to work with, that team will usually take advantage.
The Rams will also need to get their running game going. Ivan Basurto has taken control as the Rams leading rusher, and his size and speed is exactly what the Rams need to control the pace of the game. Sergio Alameda has also been a key factor in the rushing attack, so getting them going early will be important.
When the Rams pass, and they will pass because Del Rio has a bevy of good receivers, the Rams cannot afford drops or tipped passes. Every little catch for every little amount of yards is important to move down the field and keep South’s offense off the field.