GONZALES — For the fifth year in a row, the Gonzales Apaches will take on the Navarro Panthers in a non-district game. And for the first time in over a decade, the Navarro Panthers have a new head football coach and athletic director.
Rod Blount will be taking over Panthers offense that’s been widely known to be run-oriented. The Slot-T, or Nasty Slot offense, has been a staple in Geronimo for years. That look won’t change under Blount, whose offense centered around running the ball like it did his previous four seasons at Mathis.
“You couldn’t tell any difference,” Gonzales Head Coach Kodi Crane said of the Panthers under Blount.
The big returners for the Panthers are their two offensive tackles, Wyatt Tate and Michael Gilbert. They, as well as the rest of the offensive line, are a big part of what makes the slot-T offense go.
Misdirection and undisciplined play are two things the Panthers want to force on their opposing defenses. Crane identified four areas the Apaches defense need to take care of in order to limit Navarro.
Stopping the trap, stopping the strong-side ISO/lead play, not letting the passing game beat them and limiting their best runner, the Panther lining up behind the quarterback, believed to be running back Chris Gomez in the scrimmage film.
“He is their best offensive weapon,” Crane said. “Runs extremely hard, extremely physical.”
Defensively, the Panthers historically run a 3-3 stack, though in scrimmages this season under the new coach, they’ve lined up in an even front, showing a 4-2 look.
“We’ll just kind of see as the game progresses what they’re going to be in, but it’s the same mentality, it’s the same. Everything they’re doing is the exact same thing except for they will get in a four-man front this year,” Crane explained.
The Panthers defense use their front six players to disrupt the opposing offense. Whether it’s through stunts or other methods, the front six has always caused havoc year after year.
“We have to be able to control the ball,” Crane noted. “We got to be able to put the ball in the end zone when scoring opportunities arise.”
Physicality is the key for the Apaches against Navarro.
Meanwhile, the special teams unit remains a mystery. The Panthers haven’t shown their hand in special teams this season, so the coaching staff has studied film from last season’s Panthers team as well as Blount’s Mathis squad, to formulate a game plan.
“We’re just preparing our kids the best we can for what we think that they’re going to do,” Crane said. “If it’s something different, we’ll adapt and overcome.”
The Apaches believe special teams will be an advantage for them this season. With a returning kicker as well as a new punter, Crane believes there are opportunities to “flip the field” on their opponents through the kicking game.
Even though it is just the first week of games in a long six-week non-district schedule, Crane wants to make sure the team ultimately ends the night a better team than they did entering it. This first test is just one of many tough ones they face before district.
Kickoff is set for Friday, Aug. 31 at Geronimo Navarro at 7:30 p.m.