PLEASANTON — After a quick conference with the team, Gonzales head coach Kodi Crane and his staff knew they had to go for the win.
Answering Pleasanton’s overtime touchdown with a score of their own, the Apaches were left with the decision to go for the extra point tie and keep fighting, or go for the two-point conversion and win the game.
“[Pleasanton has] a potent offense,” Crane said. “They couldn't stop us on ‘hammer’ under three yards the entire game. So we called our seniors, our leaders out, and said ‘hey guys, we can kick it and go some more, or we can run right behind our people.’ We broke the huddle, lined up, they called timeout. Seniors came right back and they said, ‘Let’s do this coach, let's go the other way.’ And we went the other way and James [Martinez] got the son of a gun in the end zone.”
The offensive line opened up a lane and Martinez pushed his way through for the game-winning two-point conversion, giving the Apaches the 37-36 win over the Eagles.
That last play was just a snapshot of an Apache offense that could not be stopped. Of the 11 offensive drives in regulation, three ended in punts, two ended due to the clock running out at the half, one ended on a fumble at the goal line and four on a touchdown.
“Offense was phenomenal. Our kids played their hearts out,” Crane noted. “What won the football game was the turnover battle and our offensive line. Gosh dang how are you going to brag on those guys? [They] gave Marvin [Cardoza] time, blocked holes and [Pleasanton] got theirs too. They stopped us from time to time. But over the course of four quarters? Wow. How good was that?”
The Apaches defense recovered two fumbles in the first quarter and took advantage on both drives going up 15-0. Cardoza was given time in the pocket to find Heber Cardona for a 32-yard touchdown. Their next offensive drive, Elijah Holiday ran for 57 yards before Martinez found the end zone on a 32-yard rush. Holiday ran 23 times for 184 yards while Martinez ran 16 times for 123 yards.
Cardoza would end the game going 8-of-11 for 133 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his leadership on the field as well as his blocking on running plays that Crane pointed out were key to the team’s success.
“People look at a quarterback and the first thing they look at is passing stats,” the head coach said. “Yes, he threw for two touchdowns and did some things, but we're in a six-minute situation and there's nobody in the world that can move that like he did. He bled the clock, got us in and out of the huddle and controlled the game. It was phenomenal.”
With 9:30 left in the fourth quarter up 29-21, the Apaches went from their 44-yard line to down to the Pleasanton goal line, bleeding six minutes of clock during the drive. But on a 2nd and goal play from the 1-yard line, Martinez was inches away from scoring. The ball popped out and the Eagles recovered the fumble on their own 2-yard line.
On fourth-and-5, Pleasanton’s Johnny Zamora threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Hobbs to cut the lead to 29-27. A converted two-point after tied the game at 29.
The fourth-down conversion highlighted an issue the Apaches defense has had this season. Despite forcing those two fumbles early on, the defense still allowed the Eagles to convert seven of their 12 third downs and one of their two fourth downs, the 93-yard touchdown.
“Third down defense, there's not a magic pill for it,” Crane explained. “It's just stepping up and making a play. We work on it every Tuesday, it's our third-down day. And we work work work on it. We just got to make plays at that time.”
Nonetheless, the team leaned on their offense to push through, with big plays from their running backs including Holiday who leaped over defenders on 39-yard rush, which set up Cardoza’s second passing touchdown of the night, a 25-yard throw to Arbreyon Dora.
The win elevates the Apaches to 3-4, 1-0 in District 15-4AD1, a district prognosticators pegged the team as taking fifth.
When asked if the win opened people’s eyes to how good Gonzales can be, Crane noted that he wants the team to realize they can be good.
“I hope [the win] opens our eyes about our possibilities,” he said. “The only thing we can control is our locker room and that was a great win.”
Gonzales hosts Beeville Jones (5-2, 0-1) who lost to La Vernia 43-27. Game is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19 with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.