The Rio Grande Football League playoffs will officially start June 3, but unless you’re the Otero Desert Dawgs or Lubbock Liberty Eagles – which have already clinched a berth – every game is a basically playoff game from here on out.
Since only four of the RGFL’s remaining seven teams will make the playoffs, the East Division finds itself in a shocking situation. Two tradition-rich programs in the West Texas Drillers and West Texas Scorpions have never missed the playoffs in any year of their history.
Unfortunately, this year, one of them will.
“Our expectations are what it is every year, finish at the top and win a league title,” Scorpions owner David Samaniego said. “Health wise, we are good, because of the lack of games. Chemistry wise, I don’t think we’re there yet, because of the lack of games. It’s a double-edged sword there. These next two games will decide whether we’re going to the playoffs or sitting at home. It’s playoff time for us, before the playoffs. Every play is critical, every down, every snap, it’s not wait and correct it at halftime, it’s on the fly. It’s time to do what we can do, every play, from here on out.”
This Saturday, Lubbock Liberty hosts the Scorpions at Lena Stephens Field in what should be a good, exciting game, for first place in the East Division. In the first meeting between the Eagles and Scorpions earlier this season in Novice, Texas, the Scorpions rallied to escape with a 44-42 win, giving the Eagles their only loss of the regular season.
“It was back and forth the whole game,” Scorpions owner David Samaniego said. “At one time they had us down 22-6, then we came back and took a 10-point lead. Then, they came back and took a two-point lead, then we came back and took a two-point lead. Then, they took a one-point lead and finally, we kicked a field goal at the end to win.”
A Lubbock win would give them home-field advantage for the playoffs and put the Scorpions’ backs even more against the wall.
If the Scorpions win, that would give the Eagles two losses, but Lubbock’s two-game sweep of the Drillers would still keep them ahead of the Drillers in the playoff picture. If the Scorpions win, it will still come down to their final regular season game against the Drillers as to whether or not the Scorpions get in.
“If we beat them and it comes to a tie at the end of the season, it’ll come to the head-to-head game,” Samaniego said. “If they beat us, then we’ll have to beat the Drillers by five points to get the second seed.”
The Drillers recently beat the Scorpions 20-16, so the Scorpions would need to beat them by a larger margin to pass them in the standings. So, if the Scorpions beat the Eagles, the head-to-head winner of the Scorpions and Drillers game gets in. If the Eagles beat the Scorpions, it comes down to the points.
Regardless of how everything shakes out, the Scorpions aren’t looking beyond Saturday’s game in Lubbock.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Samaniego said. “Traveling we should be okay. They’re always tough at home, they just beat the Las Cruces Kings by 60 points a few weeks ago. They beat the Drillers twice, they shut them out once. What we’re going for is a win. It could have been a couple of plays there and a couple of plays here and they could have won last time we played.”
The Scorpions defense, which allowed 42 points to the Eagles earlier this year, will need to have a big day to limit Lubbock’s offense at home.
“On defense, that starts with J.D. Rodriguez,” Samaniego said. “He plays two-tech and nose guard, lots of tackles for losses, disruption of plays, constant, constant double teams. Even on plays away, they have to account for J.D., he’s every offensive coach and offensive lineman’s nightmare. He does things a 300-pound guy is not supposed to do.”
Defensive back Kendall Mathis, who joined the Scorpions after Week 2, has already made his presence felt with six interceptions on the year.
“The most stable person this whole season has probably been my quarterback, Jonathan DeMasters,” Samaniego said. “He’s been injured and every game we’ve had a different offensive line, but he always stays true to himself. He’s had two games with no interceptions and multiple games with only one. He does things on the fly that are all positive, whether we go run heavy or pass happy, he does whatever it takes for the team to win, which is rare these days. Most quarterbacks want stats, stats, stats, but if he only has 15 yards passing and we get the win, that’s all he wants. This is a guy that threw for 10 touchdowns and had 12 total touchdowns in one game a few years back.”
Other impact players will need to continue to produce offensively for the Scorpions to claw their way into the RGFL Playoffs.
“Gentry Vic Roberts, our running back, he’s probably been the most consistent, the most dominant, as far as our running game,” Samaniego said. “In our passing game, receiver Chuck Conners is our big-play guy, the one we go to for plays down the field.”