A YEAR OF FIRSTS: In second season, varsity football wins season opener and first-ever Homecoming game

Rachel Sloan

Senior quarterback Michael Botello has been taking snaps for as long as he has been reading.

His father introduced him to football at age six and he hasn’t stopped playing since.

“Mostly, I thank my parents,” Botello said. “They’ve been supporting me through all the years I’ve been playing and have pushed me to go farther than I ever could.”

Botello’s routine before a game includes thinking about his game and watching the field. For his fellow quarterback, Justin Pelt, his pre-game rituals include listening to Drake and Lil’ Wayne.

“I have to throw the first pass perfect or I think I’ve ruined the whole game,” Pelt said. “And I have to warm up with Dakota Unger or it just throws me off.”

No matter what rituals players have adopted this year, the results are undeniably better than last year. After coming off their first varsity season with no wins, the Raiders brought home their first win in the season opener, beating Liberty Hill 21-0, Aug. 26.

“This doesn’t change our season goal, but it definitely felt good to get a win under our belt,” head coach Joshua Mann said. “Our goal is still to play unselfishly and do the impossible.”

Senior quarterback Botello completed 7 of 12 passes for 203 yards in the win.

“We became a team this year,” Botello said. “We fight for each other, and the fellowship of the team brought us this win.”

The following week, the team traveled to Texas A&M territory to play Bryan Rudder. The game was tied 14-14 in the third quarter when a Ranger player collapsed on the field and was taken to the hospital.

“It was a good game and they played really well,” senior Jaykob Gomez said. “We’re very thankful that David [Wilganowski] was okay.”

In the final non-district games, the Raiders lost to Hendrickson 41-30 and defeated Lampasas to win the school’s first-ever Homecoming. The defense forced three turnovers and the offense scored in each quarter to win 29-13.

“It was all around a fun night,” said senior Ed Butts, who won Homecoming King. “But most importantly, we got the win.”

In district play, the team has struggled, losing to Marble Falls, Cedar Park and Dripping Springs. Pelt got his first start at quarterback against Cedar Park and finished 10 of 21 for 184 yards.

“Cedar Park was a tough game and it was disappointing not to win,” Pelt said. “But hopefully we will take what we learned and put it toward beating Lake Travis.”

The Raiders take on powerhouse Lake Travis Oct. 21 at Bible Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The Cavaliers are 3-0 in district, 7-0 overall and ranked No. 1 in the state, according to maxpreps.com.

“I don’t care what the record is,” Gomez said. “They’re just another football team.”

The team wraps up the season against district rivals Vandegrift and Vista Ridge.

“We really want to send our seniors off right,” Pelt said. “They’ve worked hard for our school since it opened and we want to make sure they leave with success.”