GONZALES — Gonzales might as well change their mascot to underdogs at this point.
The Apaches were underdogs headed into the season, picked to finish last in District 15-4ADI by Dave Campbell’s Football Magazine. The Apaches were underdogs still headed into the district season, still picked last. And Friday night, the Apaches, despite being 2-1, were still deemed underdogs as they held senior night at Apache Field to take on a Boerne team that entered the game 8-1 overall, 3-0 in district.
But at the end of the game, the Apaches were the ones lined up in victory formation, winning 35-28 as Gonzales staved off a late offensive fury by the visiting Greyhounds.
“Praise the lord, first off. How awesome,” a speechless Kodi Crane said after the game. “Praise the lord. I can’t say anything better than that.”
With the win, the Apaches set themselves up for a share of the district title, but ultimately needed a Pleasanton win over La Vernia to become the first seed. Unfortunately, the La Vernia Bears came back down 21-7 to win 24-21, dropping Gonzales to second due to tiebreakers.
Nonetheless Crane spoke highly of his team who despite facing an uphill battle through the open week, were able to knock off the top team in district at home.
“The adversity we’ve gone through these two weeks, what our kids did and every one of these guys has such a huge role in this football team,” Crane began. “It wasn’t just one guy, it was defensively — played a heck of a football game, it was offensively — kept the football from them and put the ball in the end zone, special teams…We have 46 human beings down there that poured their guts out on this football field and I’ve never been so proud of anybody or anything in all my life. I can’t even begin to put it into words.”
“I’m not sure that whenever we started this thing, that we believed it until it kicked off and we started making play after play after play,” Crane added, “and over the course of four quarters, how sweet was that [win]?”
This late in the season, the Apaches had major changes in the lineup. Both starting quarterback Marvin Cardoza and starting running back Elijah Holiday were off the roster, meaning Crane entered what could have been a district-championship game with a new quarterback under center and without his top rusher.
Add a couple of injuries to the list of missing players and Apache fans can see why Crane used the word “adversity” to describe the football team.
When asked if the Apaches on the field without Cardoza and Holiday is the team moving forward, Crane answered, “this is our football team, absolutely.”
Replacing Cardoza in the starting lineup was Heath Henke, who was listed as quarterback on the roster, but didn’t take snaps for the team in any of the games. The offense leaned on Henke as well as senior running back James Martinez who did have some starts and shared a bulk of the carries throughout the season.
Senior Kenneth Cavit had some minimal experience with direct snaps, but was heavily involved in the offense Friday against Boerne as the wildcat quarterback.
“Heath has been our backup quarterback all year long,” Crane explained. “He’s taken plays in practice, but a Friday night in November? Are you kidding me? Kenneth, last year we snapped the ball to him a couple times, so he knew a little bit, but a Friday night in November? And then with that, we had to make so many different tweaks and changes in our secondary. Just on the surface, those offensive guys, but what it did to us defensively, we just stepped up one after another after another.”
Behind that stout offensive line, the Apaches ran over 60 times for a little less than 450 total yards. Henke’s lone pass play was intercepted on a 3rd-and-12 play.
Defensively, the Apaches held Boerne to seven points in the first half, and 14 in the first three quarters before the Greyhounds gashed the team for big plays, scoring twice in the fourth quarter to bring the ball game down to 35-28. The last touchdown was a bit too late, as Boerne attempted an onside kick with 33 seconds left and the Apaches recovered it, giving the ball to their offense who immediately went into a victory formation to run down the clock.
“This is the best football game we’ve played all year,” Crane said of the win. “This might have been the best football game we’ve played in five years since I’ve been here. In the Harris Pole [Boerne] is the ninth team in the state of Texas in 4A-DI. They picked us fifth in those polls and right now they still have Beeville ahead of us and we beat them on the football field. Gosh dang, how proud, how awesome, I can’t do anything but brag [on the kids].”
Due to tiebreakers, the Apaches end the season as tri-district champion with the second seed in District 15-4ADI, despite what the polls may have predicted. Gonzales will take on Kingsville King, the third place team in District 16-4ADI, at Jourdanton on Thursday, Nov. 15. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.