Despite being called for 10 penalties to Yoakum’s three, the Gonzales Apaches knocked off the state-ranked Bulldogs 27-25, their first victory over their rivals since 2013, breaking a three-game losing streak in the series. The win moved the Apaches to 2-1 this season and the Bulldogs down to 1-2.
“It’s an honor to be on the field with a guy like [Yoakum head coach Bo Robinson] that’s [had success] and to be able to match and play a game … I’m so proud of my coaching staff,” Gonzales head coach Mike Waldie said. “We have tried to find a way to evolve of what we thought we could be in six weeks and what we’re still becoming, but we had to be this week. And what we had to be this week is what you just saw, and they almost to perfection did it.”
In need of a boost in the passing game this week, the Apaches were able to catch Yoakum off guard in their opening offensive drive, with quarterback Heath Henke using the play-action pass to his advantage. Henke hit Jared Cook for a 19-yard gain, then finished the drive off with a seven-yard run and a four-yard touchdown run to put the team up 7-0.
Later, the offense took advantage of a short field after a bad snap by the Bulldogs led to a safety. The Apache offense then drove down in five plays from the Yoakum 40 to get in the end zone and go up 16-0 with 1:28 left in the first quarter.
“It was crucial to the success to the game and to our initial game plan,” Waldie said of their offensive play calling in the first quarter. “We thought we could catch them off guard with some stuff early and we want to go establish playing good defense and not being scared of their athletes by bringing some pressure and they both worked early and you look up and it’s 16-0.”
Defensively, the Apaches allowed just six points in the first half, keeping the Yoakum playmakers in check by pressuring quarterback Blake Gordon with their front seven.
“We knew the only way we could was to bring some pressure and give our DBs a chance,” Waldie said. “They couldn’t have all day to throw, or we knew we were going to be in trouble. That’s been the strength since I’ve walked in the door, our d-line and our o-line showed up tonight. That’s the way I love to win football games, with great defense.”
Up 16-6 in the first half, the Apaches went away from the passing game completely. Henke went 5-of-6 for 49 yards and an interception in the first half but attempted no passes in the second half. The interception came off a heave to the end zone as time expired in the second quarter.
“Honestly, I probably hampered [Henke] and Coach [Robbie] Coplin a little bit when we got a 16-point lead,” Waldie admitted. “I probably didn’t let them do as much as we had in the game plan as far as throwing the football. To their credit, we probably could have continued some of that and I got pretty conservative as a defensive guy there and right or wrong, to give them credit, Heath did exactly what we needed him to do, we’re finding out what he does well, we’re finding our what our o-line does well, what our running backs do well, and when we put that together tonight, it worked out.”
Midway through the third quarter up 16-12, Waldie was furious at the officials who didn’t call what the Apaches sideline thought was a late hit on their kickoff returner. Waldie was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Apaches offense wasn’t able to recover as they were flagged for a personal flag, then later fumbled to give the Bulldogs the ball on their side of the field.
“I own the penalty, I told the team we can’t win with stupid penalties and that started with me,” Waldie said. “That’s not the leadership that I want to be. But I’m always going to protect our kids. I apologized to them and the community because we don’t want to win that way, but I do think that they know that we love each other and that we’re family and when we’re backed into a corner we’re going to fight for each other.”
“In hindsight, I’m glad some of that stuff happened,” Waldie later added, “because it made us play four full quarters and to beat some of the people we got left on our schedule, we’re going to have to do that.”
After losing their lead, the Apaches went on a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive on the legs of Henke and running back Dillen Ramos. The Apaches converted the two-point to go up 24-18 with 9:49 left in the game. Another defensive stop later, the Apaches killed about four more minutes of game clock and finished their drive with a 34-yard field goal by senior kicker Daniel Cruz.
“We really worked on this week on not changing his approach outside the 20,” Waldie said. “He makes them in practice, he makes them like an extra point, just nice and easy like a golf swing. When he over kicks it, then he has issues and I can see as he approach, he didn’t over kick it and he hit it pure. That was only about three to five yards different than some of the ones he’s been missing.”
Waldie also gave credit to kickoff specialist Frank Benes who kicked the ball through the back of the end zone, not allowing for any big returns by the athletic Bulldog returners.
With 2:10 left, the Bulldogs took advantage of a personal foul, then a pass interference, getting in the endzone off a pass two-yard pass from Gordon to freshman running back Jayden Jones to cut the lead to two points. But with 49 seconds left, the Apaches special teams unit held on, recovering the onside kick and ending the game in victory formation with a 27-25 win.
Gonzales is now 52-36-4 all time against the Yoakum Bulldogs. Friday’s win was the Apaches’ first against the Bulldogs since 2013, breaking a three-game losing streak (51-36 loss in 2014, 24-22 loss in 2015 and a 33-14 loss in 2018).
The Apaches have another rivalry game coming up, this time against the Cuero Gobblers (1-2). Cuero lost 42-0 against El Campo on Friday and 40-21 against Yoakum on Sept. 6. The last time Cuero lost more than one game in a season was in 2015.
Cuero is 43-36-1 all time against Gonzales. The Apaches last win over the Gobblers was a 28-0 victory in 2011.