GONZALES — Playoff time is here for the Apaches, and in the bi-district round Gonzales (6-4, 3-2) will take on a tough defense in Mexia (5-5, 3-2).
Both teams reached this far needing a win in the final week of the regular season, so for those who believe in momentum, the Apaches and Blackcats are both coming off huge victories with Gonzales knocking off Smithville 42-12 and Mexia knocking off their district opponents, Robinson, 52-19.
Don’t let that Mexia/Robinson score fool you. The Blackcats, as is Gonzales, reside in a tough district.
“All of those guys can play,” Gonzales Head Coach Kodi Crane said of District 9-4AD2. “Robinson is down a little bit this year but they’re usually tradition rich. Good football team. Fairfield played in the state championship a couple years ago. Salado was down for a long time but that head coach has got them going. Every one of those coaches in the district says Connally has the best athletes in the district. [Mexia is] a good football team that has the ability of being great.”
As is well known whenever playing sports in Region III, the Blackcats are “extremely athletic,” according to Crane. Mexia is led by their defense, a fact that’s proven by just looking at their schedule.
The Blackcats have given up 20.6 points per game, an average skewed by a 40-33 loss they took on Sept. 8 to Teague (8-2) and a 53-7 loss they took Sept. 22 against La Vega (10-0). Take away those losses and the Blackcats are averaging 14.1 points given up.
“They got a lot of good players on their defense,” Crane scouted. “There’s some good offenses, some good football being played in [District 9-4AD2].”
“They are extremely talented up front, their defensive line is big, great-looking kids,” he continued. “Whenever you look at those kids they all have skill-position numbers on, it’s not 50s, 60s or 70s, so you know these guys can run as well.
The Blackcats run an odd front, usually putting three linemen up front. In past games, the secondary has shown a cover-two zone, though the Apaches coaching staff isn’t sure if that’s what Mexia will play against the Gonzales offense.
“The athletes in the back end of it, if you throw a ball up, they’ll go find it,” Crane said. “They’re pretty good ‘centerfielders’ and can go move and make a play on the ball.”
For the Apaches to have success on offense, they’ll need to dominate the run game as well as connect on those vertical passes.
“When you look at it, we beat La Grange, we beat Columbus because we converted those vertical shots,” Crane noted. “Then we turn around against Giddings and Caldwell and don’t complete them.”
Crane also preached efficiency as something to strive for in their short-passing game.
Offensively, Mexia will come out of a spread, like what Gonzales has seen in the past few games. Top athletes include senior wide receiver #88 Davion Carter as well as quarterback #3 Travion Carter and running back #5 Jadrian Smith.
Mexia graduated a four-year starter at quarterback, so this is Travion Carter’s first year as a starter. Nonetheless, he is athletic and excels on completing passes on the fly, especially by making plays with his legs.
“You can see on tape, whenever they throw the ball, very rarely is their drop-back game three step, one, two, three, on rhythm ball to where it’s going,” Crane explained. “He looks, if he doesn’t like it he looks somewhere else, if he doesn’t like it he starts scrambling left, he doesn’t like that he scrambles right and before long, there might be a guy that he faked it to that has no part in the play that drifted over there and he’s thrown it to him and [he gets] 20 yards. We’re going to have to do a great job of understanding leverage and understanding their skill people on every single play.”
Athletic all around with a tough defensive front, the Apaches need to play with leverage as well as dominate on the line of scrimmage to get to the area round of playoffs.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Georgetown ISD Athletic Complex.