GONZALES — The Gonzales Apaches (4-4, 2-0) have already proved the prognosticators wrong, winning their first two district games of the season. Many had Gonzales fifth in the five-team district and missing the playoffs. But after winning those two games, the Apaches are just about guaranteed an 11th game this year.
This week, the team faces yet another tough task, knocking off the unbeaten La Vernia Bears (7-0, 1-0), a team picked by some as the district favorites.
“They’re a pretty balanced, explosive, well-coached, fundamentally-sound football team,” Gonzales Head Coach Kodi Crane said. “You don’t get to 7-0 and not be that way. It was pretty obvious last spring, whenever we track against them and saw, they’re athletic, they’re fast, you can see that athleticism last spring. They were picked to win district in the polls that I saw and deservedly so.”
Quarterback Clayton Chadwick (18) is the key to their success, though there are plenty of weapons on that unit that leads District 15-4AD1 in offensive production.
In seven games played, La Vernia has had 3,396 yards of offense topping Pleasanton with 3,211 yards, who’s played eight games this season.
Chadwick is third in rushing yards in the district with 808 yards and second in passing yards with 1,590.
Running back Diego Mendoza (30) is another weapon on that offense. He is currently fifth in rushing yards in District 15-4AD1 with 631 yards.
Other athletes to look out for include Kyle Gates (20), Daryl Dulak (2) and Brian Beltran (6).
“Their offensive line is outstanding as well,” Crane noted, “they’re a good football team.”
In order to limit the Bears, Crane believes the defense needs to continue to build on their successes from last week, which was making third down stops and causing turnovers.
“That quarterback, that running back, they’re all good enough where they can go on any play,” Crane said, “and we got to do a good job on first down, get them to second and long and then win on third down.”
Defensively, the Bears use an odd-front with opportunities to stack the box against the run. Although the coaching staff hasn’t seen much stacking on film, they anticipate the Bears to try to stop what Gonzales does best, which is to run the ball.
Interesting enough, Triston Neatherlin (61) is the only Bear on that defensive line that has a “lineman number.” Normally, skill position players wear jersey numbers 1-39 or 80-89. However, nose guard Dawson Friederick, plays a key role on that defensive front wearing the number 14 jersey.
“All of them do a good job [and] have a good nose for the ball and get there, but whenever you have skill numbers in line positions you know the overall team speed is pretty fast,” Crane said.
This week, the Apaches offense hopes to be a bit more balanced than last week.
“Last week we were really run-heavy,” Crane noted. According to stats uploaded to MaxPreps.com, quarterback Marvin Cardoza attempted three just three passes. The team combined for 55 yards rushing, with Elijah Holiday running 35 times for 159 yards and James Martinez running 10 times for 117 yards.
“We got to be more balanced,” Crane said. “We had been pretty balanced leading up to this game, but field conditions and everything else…the pendulum needs to be a little bit more to the run, but we got to be a little bit more balanced than we were last week.”
Regardless of what prognosticators may have written, a district championship was always something the Apaches had their eye on. Friday night provides the biggest test to date on whether Gonzales can win their first district title since 2011.
Kickoff for Friday is at La Vernia, set for a scheduled start of 7:30 p.m.
District 15-4AD1 Football