SAN MARCOS – There wasn’t anything pretty about the way the Pflugerville Panthers dominated the San Marcos Rattlers on Friday night.
The Panthers rolled into Bobcat Stadium with their foot on the accelerator and did not take their foot off of the gas until the final gun on their way to an impressively lopsided 48-21 victory.
Behind a powerful running game, a ball hawking defense, and outstanding special teams play, Pflugerville (3-0), TPI’s No. 1 ranked Class 5A team in Central Texas, finishes undefeated in non-district play.
This is a very nice turnaround for the Panthers who stumbled to a 3-7 record after three straight years with at least one playoff victory and at least seven wins in each of those seasons.
It was an opportunistic special teams unit that changed the complexion of the game early in the first quarter. After quarterback Brandon Wilson gave the Panthers an early 7-0 with a one-yard touchdown run, San Marcos’ (1-2) Lorne Morales could not field a bad punt snap on the Rattlers next drive, ultimately leading to an A.J. Reese blocked punt and a safety giving Pflugerville a 9-0 lead.
Cade Glasgow 27-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 12-0 lead in the second quarter when senior running back Zaviar Gooden showed his big play ability by taking a pitch to the left side of the line, finding a crease, then cutting back against the grain for a 60-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 19-0 lead. The Panthers made it five straight possessions that ended with points as Marcus Carruth staked the Panthers to a 26-0 lead with a one yard touchdown run midway through the period.
Senior running back Greg Nwoko, Gooden, and Carruth paced a Pflugerville ground attack that rolled up 239 yards on the night. Nwoko led all rushers in the game with 85 yards on 11 carries while Gooden added 65 and Carruth chipped in with 48 on nine carries.
Pflugerville led 29-7 at halftime when the special teams came up big again on the opening kickoff of the second half as San Marcos’ Brandon Banks, who had a nice 34-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, fumbled allowing Panther linebacker Devon Harris to recover at the Rattler 24-yard line. The Panther offense needed only one play to score as Nwoko raced around the right side of the line and into the end zone putting Pflugerville ahead 35-7 with just 14 seconds elapsed in the third quarter.
The Rattlers had a 12-play march that came up empty on their next series, but the Panthers answered quickly when on third-and-seven from their own 34, quarterback Brandon Wilson rolled to his left and lofted a pass downfield to a wide open Jordan Huffman, who outraced the San Marcos secondary for a 66-yard touchdown.
Quarterback looked like a big question mark entering the season for the Panthers but Wilson was solid on Friday going 6-for-11 for 162 yards and a scoring toss.
The Panthers reserves helped the cause when the special teams forced another turnover, this time on a punt late in the fourth quarter giving Pflugerville the ball deep inside Rattler territory. Pflugerville backup quarterback Jordan Haywood finished off the scoring for the Panthers by calling his own number, reaching pay dirt from 11-yards out to give the Panthers a 48-14 lead.
All told the Panthers forced four turnovers, two via fumble recoveries, a turnover on downs, and a blocked punt, all of which led to Pflugerville points.
The Rattlers finished with 261 yards rushing yards with Banks, D.J. Hemphill, and Scott Camacho doing most of the damage in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers enter their bye week this week and are sure to begin preparing for a District 14-5A showdown on September 27 at Leander. San Marcos will also take the week off and begin 25-5A play in two weeks against Austin Anderson.