When a team is picked to go 1-9 overall, 0-4 in district, any wins above the prediction can be considered a success. The Apaches did more than just win a few games — they got a share of the district title.
Gonzales Athletic Director and head football coach Kodi Crane points at the level of commitment as more of why he believes this football team was successful this season.
Gonzales finished their season after last Friday night’s loss with a 6-6 overall record, 3-1 in a highly competitive District 15-4ADI, a share of the district championship with La Vernia and Boerne, their 11th bi-district win in school history and a competitive area round game against the third ranked team in all of Class 4A.
“I think it’s absolutely a success,” Crane said of the accomplishments this season.
“We developed a tough schedule for a reason with some of the elite teams in the state of Texas. We have six losses on the year, five of those teams are still playing right now into the third round and more will continue on as we go.”
Navarro (9-2), Yoakum (10-2), Cuero (11-1), La Vernia (11-1) and juggernaut Liberty Hill (10-1) who gave Gonzales their sixth and final loss of the season, all have football to play this weekend. Mineral Wells (6-4) is the lone team who beat the Apaches that missed out on the playoffs this season.
But when asked how the Apaches were able to be successful this season, Crane pointed at the senior class as well as the level of commitment the team has had during offseason as big factors.
“I think two years ago the senior class that we had really took the bull by the horns and wanted to have success on the field but wanted to take the discipline, the culture to another level and raise the bar — and they did that,” Crane explained. “I think these seniors came in and saw that and wanted to take it up a notch higher. I think without a doubt they did it. That is how you build programs. That is how you build community, the culture that drives the whole organization so yes I think without a doubt it was successful.”
One of the storylines late in the season was indeed a culture shift within the athletic program. In the past, each team tend to operate in their own universe, with little interaction with others. But this fall season, the boys athletes filled up a student section during volleyball while the girls came to football games and brought much-needed energy to the home crowd. Instead of everyone keeping to themselves, the different teams joined together as one Gonzales unit.
“What I personally witnessed this fall is I witnessed energy from the stands in a volleyball game transfer to our girls in a match and make a real difference,” Crane said. “I watched energy in the stands in the last football game — that we had to win to be a district champion — transfer to the field and make a difference in a football game. The sense of community that those kids have, I think that’s a culture change that I hope continues to happen through all of Gonzales athletics, high school, junior high, boys and girls and get out of your shell and stand up and cheer and support your teammates, because they are your teammates and they’re your brothers and sisters in Gonzales athletics.”
Going back to this senior class, when the Apaches had to turn to a new quarterback late in the season, the football team rallied behind their senior leaders to not only knock of Boerne but win a bi-district game against Kingsville King the following week.
“I think that’s without a doubt maybe the understatement of the day,” Crane said of the team having to lean on their seniors. “We get ready for the Boerne game and got to take Seth [Gibson] and put him in and give him running back reps and he says ‘oh coach, back to ninth grade.’ [He] just stepped in and went like none other. It’s several people at several different positions just stepped in and continued right along with high expectations, high accountability and absolutely just try to do what they could no matter what they’re asked for the betterment of this team.”
The Apaches’ success on the field can also be pointed at a position group that had to be good for the rest of the team to be great. When asked which players or position groups ended up being a surprise this season, Crane noted that it wasn’t a surprise, more like a sense of relief, that the offensive line ended up being as great as it was this season.
Gonzales returned just one starter from last season with Brandon Carrizales, Nick Ramirez, Bradley Bakken and Juan “Bull” Licea all graduating.
“To lose that leadership, that strength, that dedication of those kids, we knew our offensive line was a big question mark headed into the season and something that had to be really good if we were going to be good,” Crane admitted.
But again, it was the commitment to offseason programs, including a linemen summer camp, that helped get the athletes to the level of play they needed to be in order to compete.
“We were able to do some things over the summer, have some linemen camps,” Crane added, “and our kids, you know, we returned Nico [Anzaldua], and Alex Villa had some play here and there, we had those kids jump in and step in and Larry [Gomez] had played some too, started some games, but Cameron Mileham was new, Desmond [Bolden] was new and then the other two had just been spot starters for us and they did a great job for us this year and was a, maybe not a surprise, but a relief, because we knew that unit had to be good if we were going to be good.”
Now that fall sports is over for the Gonzales Apaches, Crane hopes the success bleeds into winter and spring sports. The word commitment was an important word brought up multiple times during his interview with the Inquirer. And sure enough, commitment to the program is what it’ll take for the Apaches to find success on the court or the field or the diamond or the track or wherever Gonzales athletes find themselves competing.
“High school athletics on the elite level we’re trying to get into has changed so much from whenever I graduated high school in the 90s, it’s changed so much from whenever I started coaching in the late 90s and 2000s, it’s just changed, the commitment levels has changed, what it takes to be great has changed then from whenever I started coaching and whenever I was playing,” Crane said.
“[Monday], the first day after the football season, and I wish I would have went through and counted, but at 4:30 in the afternoon, we had about 10-12 of those seniors in here lifting again,” he added. “It’s become a habit in their lives and that’s what we got to take and make sure we put down there with our lower levels.”