There’s something about this senior class that has made this school year so far for the Gonzales Apaches particularly fun. This isn’t a knock on any of the previous graduating classes, but there’s no doubt that there’s a difference in attitude, specifically the now student section building up in the stands.
I remember a few seasons ago, I was walking around on the sidelines of a particularly brutal football game and I noticed some arguing between students in the stands and Apache players on the sideline. The score was a lot to Gonzales’ little, and there was a bit of mocking from the stands. The players responded back saying “I don’t see you down here trying to do anything” and thus, the divide between athlete and spectator was amplified.
This season is different, and it all starts with the seniors.
When Gonzales hosted Cuero for a vital district volleyball game, the stands were filled with not only the usual suspects of parents and other volleyball supporters, there was also a group of boys athletes, a lot of them seniors, who painted their faces and shouted out chants in support of the Lady Apaches.
The support was reciprocated on Friday nights, as a growing student population came out to Apache Field to cheer on their football team.
“That has been the most fun thing about this football season, the sense of community [and] the sense of togetherness,” Gonzales Athletic Director and head football coach Kodi Crane said.
Crane cited a time when JT Esparza stood on the band’s podium to “direct the band” after a win. Trent Wilkerson, one of the main senior leaders of the team, has talked to the band and asked for help in their support.
“Our band has been phenomenal,” Crane said.
Whether it’s the cheerleaders, the Apache flames, the Tomahawks or any other spirit squad, the Apaches support has no doubt made this season an especially fun one.
“We had our section of students standing the entire time doing [a chant], it [gives] our kids energy,” Crane continued, “they hear that and they have energy and that bleeds right back to the stands and the parents and the kids and the band and the flames and it’s been so awesome the togetherness that athletics this fall has been for our school because whether it’s football players or other kids not just football kids, there’s boys basketball players, the athletes in the gym in the volleyball game, girl athletics with the student section of the football game, and then the way our pep squad with our flames and cheer and band, it’s been just, words can’t describe how cool it has been.”
This is a culture that Crane wants to bring to all of athletics. There’s no pointing of fingers whenever something bad happens on the field or on the court. There’s no ridicule from the sidelines if a team loses their game. This season there’s been support, and that affects the mood of the athletes in the field of play. Crane has noticed it and wants it to continue.
“There’s been a shift, a culture shift,” Crane said, “and that’s because of the hard work of Ms. Ruddock and the hard work of our boy and girl athletes and just meshing them, coming together, building a sense of community within our school.”
Ruddock has contributed by buying face paint for the seniors who then go out to support their athletes.
Throughout social media, Gonzales High School Principal Michael Garcia would always tout the phrase “Once an Apache, Always an Apache.” Now he added another phrase to his social media vocabulary.
“You play one of us, you play all of us.”
Sports are best played when you have a sense of “us.” This fall season, there’s no doubt that there’s an “us.”