Special teams proved to be the difference as Gonzales knocked off Cuero 21-20 at Apache Field Friday night. The one-point victory is the Apaches’ first over Cuero since 2011.
“That’s a really good football team now,” Gonzales head coach Mike Waldie said of Cuero. “These cats are good, they’re big, they’re physical, they’re the defending state champions for a reason, they’re well coached and we didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win.”
The Apaches special teams unit came away with a blocked extra point in the first quarter and a tipped extra point late in the game. In their Week 1 home opener against Navarro, The Apaches lost by one and Waldie didn’t forget that special teams was a factor in that game too.
“Last time here losing by a point, I think [special teams] was the most crucial point for me, huge block right there after we fell asleep the time before,” Waldie added.
Up 21-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Cuero Gobblers scored on an 18-yard screen pass to cut the lead to 21-12. The Gobblers opted for a fake field goal run to convert the two-point conversion to be down by seven. Then later with 4:34 left in the game, Cuero from their own 45-yard line drove down the field to Gonzales’ 22 and on 4th-and-2 converted on a pass from C4 to C26 for the 22-yard touchdown. On the ensuing extra point, the ball was tipped enough to force a wide left miss, making the score 21-20 in favor of the Apaches. An onside kick recovery plus a first down run by Heath Henke later put the game away for the home team.
“Special teams work both ways,” Waldie admitted. “We got to make field goals, we got to finish some first downs, in that third quarter when we had that wind I thought we really lost the momentum right there by only scoring one time. We overcame all of those challenges tonight, beat a really good football team and at the end of the day, you can’t ask much more than that, especially game four going into our program.”
Gonzales kickers didn’t have a good night scoring, missing an early extra point, a 48-yard field goal and a 41-yard field goal. The Apaches made up the early extra point miss with a two-point conversion in the early in the second quarter.
Offensively, Dillen Ramos, Jared Cook, Heath Henke and Arbreyon Dora made plays on the ground behind the ever-improving offensive line. Dora scored twice as the wildcat quarterback, once from eight yards out and another from one yard out. Henke set up a scoring drive with a 42-yard rush in the first quarter, which led to a 10-yard run by Cook and then the Dora eight-yard touchdown. Henke also got the first down run to ice the game. Meanwhile, Ramos broke three tackles in his 45-yard touchdown run to help give the Apaches a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.
Despite their success on the run game, Waldie admitted after the fact that the game plan was to incorporate more passes on offense.
“We really intended to throw the ball more,” he said, “sometimes you just get into one of those games. The wind was a huge factor tonight, and when we had the whole first quarter against the wind, and we didn’t throw the ball successfully, I think you just struggle calling it at times when you’re having success the other way. But we just got to find a way to throw the ball better. That’s not a quarterback thing, that’s offensively, that’s o-line, that’s receivers, so when I say throw the ball, I think everybody hears quarterback in that, but it’s not, it’s a total schematic thing that we got to find a way to improve that, to get over the hump on some of these teams coming up.”
Even with those mishaps, the Apaches found their way to a one-point victory against a team just one season removed from a state championship.
“As a huge UT fan, I’m sitting there watching that state championship game watching that team right there rooting for that cat that’s going to Texas,” Waldie said. “It’s so surreal to be standing on the field at your house with them less than a year later, and to beat them is just a very proud moment in my career with a staff I can’t say enough about, a community I can’t say enough about. Our administration is supporting way in such way to get give us the opportunity to be successful. And then our kids, they’re trusting and believing in us and we fought through ha really big game tonight and overcame some major challenges. I hope it’ll carry over, because man the schedule is just crazy, it never stops. We got to enjoy it and then we got to get to work in the morning against a good, tough Hondo team.”
The Apaches (3-1) take on Hondo (1-3) at home on Friday, Sept. 27.