Smithson Valley head coach Larry Hill still keeps up with his alma mater and wishes them well each time they take the field.
With the exception of this week, that is.
Hill’s Rangers (3-2, 1-1) are set to host the East Central Hornets tonight in an important District 26-6A clash. The Hornets (4-1, 2-0) have continued to show improvement under head coach Joe Hubbard, as East Central is once again coming off a mammoth win against New Braunfels prior to a showdown against Smithson Valley.
“I’m still close to a lot of my old teammates and they’re excited to see them on the uptick,” Hill said of the Hornets. “Obviously, I can’t pull for them this week, but it’s good. They need to be better and clearly they’re getting better.”
East Central’s offense again revolves around the running game — specifically, senior tailback Deangelo Rosemond. After sharing the backfield duties with several others as a junior, Rosemond has taken command in 2019 and has already run for 897 yards and 14 touchdowns on 124 carries — an average of 7.2 per carry.
Surprisingly, those numbers aren’t enough for Rosemond, who said that his goal for the season is to average 8 yards per tote following his team’s 24-20 win over the Unicorns.
Hill said the Rangers’ defense will focus on slowing the Hornets’ top weapon.
“They have their playmakers — some other receivers who can and have made plays — and their quarterback does a nice job throwing the football and running, but any team you go against, you’ve got to stop what they do best, and what they do best is hand [Rosemond] the ball,” Hill said. “He’s got a unique skillset. Everybody talks about he’s shifty and can make you miss, and he can run away from you, and all that’s true — very true — but what I’ve been equally impressed with is his ability to press the line of scrimmage on an inside run, get all the way up in the crowd and find a hole and then almost made a 90-degree cut and turn a 1- or 2-yard gain into an 8-yard gain. I mean, that’s a gift.”
Rosemond torched New Braunfels for 172 yards two weeks ago and also helped open up the passing game for quarterback Caden Bosanko and receivers Charles Oglesby and Christopher Taylor, who each found the end zone.
The Hornets remained calm even after falling behind 17-3 against the Unicorns, and Rosemond helped turn the tide with a 44-yard scoring burst in the second quarter.
East Central’s defense also made a few necessary adjustments to hem up New Braunfels’ own ground attack. Hill said the Hornets like to rotate several players in to try and keep the energy level high throughout the game.
“They’re playing 17, 18, 19 different guys on defense to keep them fresh,” Hill said. “I think you’re seeing them finish well in the second half because of it.”
Among the leaders on defense for East Central are senior middle linebacker Michael Martinez and sophomore linebackers Cornell George and Maddox Miese. Hill praised the trio for their “closing speed” and ability to deliver a solid hit when they arrive on the scene.
The Rangers, like East Central, are fresh off a bye week following a district victory two weeks ago. Smithson Valley bludgeoned Canyon 51-7 on the road and has a nice one-two punch on offense with Jacob Forton and Greg Eggleston.
Forton, the more physical runner, has tallied 535 rushing yards and six scores, while Eggleston has used his quickness to amass 813 total yards and seven TDs.
Quarterback Luke Gombert has taken advantage of opposing defenses creeping up to play the run by passing for 761 yards and eight scores thus far.
The Rangers’ defense has also been stifling during the first two weeks of 26-6A competition. Smithson Valley held Clemens to 306 total yards and then gave up just 261 to Canyon.
Hill said the week off allowed all of his players to gear up for the final five weeks of the regular season.
“Just a chance to charge their batteries before the stretch run,” Hill said. “We’re glad with how our kids handled the open week.”
With the break over, the Rangers are slated to return to action tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Spring Branch.