Years from now when their high school days are long behind them. the players on this season's Reagan football team will remember the week that tested their resilience and resolve.
Long after the cheering stops, they'll remember how they stood steadfast in the face of adversity and drew strength from each other -- and their coach.
Whether it's grieving with his players over the death of a former teammate or getting the most out of them on the field, David Wetzel has a way of connecting with the kids he coaches.
Reagan outlasted O'Connor to take a 49-42 victory Friday night before a crowd of 5,438 at Farris Stadium, but that's only part of the story here. The Rattlers dedicated the game to the memory of Andres Cabrera Cordero, a former Reagan player who graduated this spring.
Cordero, 19, was killed in a car crash Wednesday morning on Sonterra Boulevard near Reagan.
"It's a sobering deal when something like that happens," said Wetzel, who is in his ninth season at Reagan.
The Rattlers held Cordero's No. 72 jersey high during pregame ceremonies and had his brother, an eighth-grader at Bush Middle School, lead them on the field in the second half.
Summers scores winning TD with 1:48 left
"It's been a tough week in a lot of ways," Wetzel said. "It'sbeen tough for the Reagan community. I was really proud of our kids because they spent the week concerned about his (Cordero's) family. I'm amazed at our kids at times. They're resilient. We needed to play a ballgame.
"We did some really good things tonight, and we did some really bad things tonight on the field. But I tell you what, I'm so proud of the kids right now. They were worried about their teammate who was hurt here at the end. I was proud of the character they showed."
The Rattlers got a scare when sophomore defensive back Garrett Strauss was injured on the kickoff following Ty Summers' game-winning, 6-yard TD run with 1:48 left. The game was delayed for nearly half an hour before Strauss was wheeled to an ambulance that came on the field.
Strauss, who apparently lost consciousness briefly after getting hurt, gave the thumbs-up sign with his right hand before being lifted into the ambulance.
"He's going to be all right," Wetzel said. "I think it's a precautionary deal they've got to take if anybody ever blacks out at all. He's going to be fine."
O'Connor, which tied the game at 42 with three fourth-quarter TDs, drove from its 39 to the Reagan 17 on its final possession. Jake Perez sealed the victory by breaking up a Galindo pass in the end zone on the last play of the game.
Reagan improved to 2-0 and O'Connor slipped to 1-1.
"We have a lot of things we need to fix," Wetzel said. "I thought O'Connor played really well. They've got a good team and they're going to be a force in that district."
O'Connor tied game at 42 with three fourth-quarter TDs
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead on its first possession and was up 14-7 after one quarter. But Reagan was on top 28-14 at the half and led 35-14 in the third period, before Galindo hooked up with Nate Phillips for a 44-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 14 points.
The Rattlers responded with an eight-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Curtis Smith's 2-yard scoring run.
Down 42-21, O'Connor refused to fold. The Panthers made it a 14-point game again when Tre Johnson turned a screen pass from Galindo into a 24-yard TD on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Panthers forced a three-and-out on Reagan's next possession and caught a break when the Rattlers' punter 's knee made contact with the ground at the 1 while he scooped up a low snap. Billy Craft's TD on the next play, combined with Dillon Westall's extra-point kick, cut Reagan's lead to 42-35.
O'Connor tied the game at 42 on an 8-yard pass from Galindo to Alan Wright with 4:33 left.
The Rattlers went ahead to stay on their next possession, capping a five-play, 81-yard drive with Summers' 6-yard TD run. Reagan kicked off one last time and that's when Strauss was injured.
At one point during the delay, Wetzel gathered his players and they huddled to pray.
"Coach Wetzel is a guy you just really learn to respect," said offensive lineman Matt Beyer, who has committed to Oklahoma. "He's a role model to look up to. He's almost like a father figure. You don't want to disappoint him. He asks so much of you, but he gives so much to you as well. He's a great coach."
Beyer and his teammates will remember Wetzel, 43, for years to come.