CALDWELL — In hopes of officially clinching a playoff spot, the Gonzales Apaches were six yards away from all but winning the game, before a costly fumble on top of a giving up a 76-yard touchdown play late in the fourth gave the Caldwell Hornets a 19-14 lead they would retain for the rest of the game, dropping Gonzales down to 2-2 and Caldwell up to 2-2 in District 10-4AD2.
“I thought our kids played extremely hard, extremely physical,” Gonzales head coach Kodi Crane said. “Nothing but hats off to that football team.”
Defensively, the Apaches frustrated Caldwell throughout the game, holding a team that’s averaged 33 points per game before Friday night to just 11. Then, on first and goal from the 6-yard line, the Apaches fumbled the ball and Caldwell recovered, taking over on their own 9-yard line.
On third down, Caldwell’s Trent Stefka connected with Weston Lillie on a screen pass, where Lillie broke through for a 76-yard touchdown play to give the Hornets the five-point lead after a successful two-point conversion.
“Defensively [we were] phenomenal, except that one play. Phenomenal,” Crane explained. “[The Hornets] are putting up all kinds of yards and tonight [we were] phenomenal. I have nothing but outstanding things to say to those people who played in white [Gonzales]. They played their tails off.”
Offensively, the Apaches gave different looks, such as finding ways to get senior wide receiver Trevion McNeil the ball like a jet sweep that went for a 10-yard touchdown run. Later in the game, Quarterback Garrett Rickman found junior Heber Cardona on a 17-yard touchdown pass in the end zone.
In that fourth-quarter drive that ended in a fumble, the Apaches running game was highlighted, with big runs by Rickman and running backs Elijah Holiday and Kalub Carrizales.
With 4:29 left in the game, the Apaches continued to put pressure on Caldwell’s defense with their rushes as Holiday had a rush of 16 yards, then four, then 16 and finally a one-yard rush before coming out of the game due to an injury. On fourth down, the Apaches fell short of the first-down maker, giving Caldwell the ball with 3:09 left in the game. The defense forced a punt, but the Apaches’ offense went backwards and was unable to gain a first, ending the game 19-14.
Giddings (4-0) clinched the district title, while four teams are locked in at 2-2, including Caldwell, Gonzales, Smithville and Columbus. La Grange has been eliminated from playoff contention with their 0-4 record.
Gonzales takes on Smithville this week, in a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario. Caldwell takes on La Grange while Giddings plays Columbus. Due to tiebreaking scenarios, if Columbus loses and Caldwell knocks off La Grange, the Apaches can clinch a playoff berth.