Applying the pressure

Del Rio Rams defenders Andrew Garza, left, and Jaden Talamantez team up to bring down Laredo LBJ quarterback Alejandro Lucio during the first quarter of a 43-6 win by the Rams Oct. 30.

After a successful start to the 2020 District 30-6A schedule, the Del Rio Rams will face one of their toughest tests this season Friday night in Laredo.

Waiting for the Rams are the Laredo United Longhorns, last year’s district runners-up and a regional semifinal team from a year ago.

The Rams have some momentum on their side. They easily dispatched the Laredo LBJ Wolves in their district opener, 43-6. Meanwhile, United dropped its first district game this past Friday, falling in a close game at Eagle Pass, 24-20.

As in years past, United relies heavily on its strong passing game to get the job done. Against the Eagles, it was more of the same.

United led early on, but Eagle Pass was able to grab the lead in the second quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass. United looked to pull ahead later in the second quarter, but a fumble by quarterback Sammy Casso shut the door on that scoring chance.

Down 13-10 in the fourth, Eagle Pass hit on a seven-yard scoring pass. Laredo was able to reclaim the lead, 20-17, before a 35-yard pass late in the fourth quarter set up a 14-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the game winner.

United racked up nearly 400 yards of passing in the loss, but their run game was held in check. Also hurting the Longhorns were three turnovers including two fumbles and an interception.

The Rams fixed many of the issues they had in their first two games. Del Rio did have two turnovers, one via a sack and fumble and a second on a late interception, but Del Rio’s defense allowed only one touchdown in the contest and was able to shut down the Wolves rushing game and forcing them to pass.

The biggest problem for the Rams on Friday night was penalties. Del Rio committed multiple penalties on both sides of the ball and even lost linebacker Diego Piña to an ejection after officials ruled he threw a punch in a confrontation with an LBJ player.

But the penalties were the only downsides to what was a dominant Rams win.

Victor Medina has firmly entrenched himself as the Rams quarterback, but the Rams have done most of their damage on the ground this season. Of the Rams’ eight touchdowns this season, only one has come via the pass.

Aiden Huerta has embraced the role as the Rams’ starting running back and seems to have abandoned his fumbling problems that plagued him in the Rams’ first two games. Huerta scored three times against LBJ and was able to take advantage of some strong blocking by his offensive line.

For the Rams to be successful against United, Del Rio will need to establish the run. Del Rio has used Huerta, Ricky Haynes, Jovahn West, Marcus Leak and Luis Pablo Galaviz in its ground game. A mix of speed and power, the group was able to control the field and, more importantly, kept LBJ’s offense off the field.

If the run isn’t there, Del Rio’s passing game will need to step up. Madina attempted only nine passes against LBJ, completing seven of them for 34 yards.

Del Rio does have two wild cards that could play a big part in the game against United - West and Donnie Lewis.

West has already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, showcasing his blazing speed and agility. Lewis, the team’s place kicker, was 2-of-2 on field goal tries and perfect on point after tries against LBJ.

Del Rio fans looking to attend the game in Laredo will be out of luck unless their children play for the Rams. Laredo United ISD Athletic Director Bobby Cruz said no tickets would be sold to the general public and each player was given four tickets for family to enter.

Cruz added the game would be streamed on YouTube on the official United ISD channel.