Friday night is the official start of high school football and the start of the Mike Waldie era for the Gonzales Apaches. However, fans should not expect to see what a Waldie-ran team typically looks like when they take on the Navarro Panthers.
“People may love this or hate this but I’m a straight-shooting guy, this is not the draw you want in week one game in a brand-new program with brand-new coaches, players, because what they do is so difficult to defend, even when you’re prepared to do it and try to simulate it in three or four days [of practice],” Gonzales head coach Mike Waldie said.
Waldie explained that the Panthers are most likely the only team on the schedule who will run a Slot-T offense. So instead of spending fall camp figuring out how to defend the Slot T, then catching up with their regular looks on defense after, the Apaches focused more on “becoming the team you need to be eight [or] nine of the 10 weeks you play,” Waldie explained.
“Beeville mixed with the Slot T but they’re a little bit more spreadish with the Slot T,” he added, “so what’s so weird about this game is which way do you go? You want to win the game, we’re preparing to beat Navarro, but we’re also trying to prepare to be the best team we can be.
It’s a bad conundrum, it doesn’t’ really fit.”
“To give them credit, that’s why a lot of teams run the Slot T,” he continued. “Most of the world is spread and all of sudden you go into what I call a ‘telephone booth’ of a-three-yards-and a cloud of dust, but then they throw it over your head and then they’ll bust big plays. I have been on a Slot T staff before, so I respect it huge. Coach [Rod] Blunt does a great job with it.”
Another obvious challenge for the Apaches is simply the amount of time they’ve been with this system. There are seniors on the Panthers team who have ran the Slot T since they were in seventh grade, whereas most, if not all of the players on the Apaches have spent merely weeks on Waldie’s system.
“These senior kids have been doing it since they were seventh graders,” Waldie said. “That’s the challenge for us this week. It’s things that kids have been doing literally going into their sixth year and we’re doing it for our third week. Who is going to win that matchup? But that’s the fun part of it. So we’ll see.”
Defensively, the Panthers are a 50, usually meaning five defensive linemen that includes one nose guard, two defensive tackles and two defensive ends.
Non-district games can be tricky in that teams want to win, but more importantly they want to improve so that when district comes around, the Apaches will be set to become playoff contenders. Waldie also noted that he wants his team to be healthy after this tough Week 1 matchup.
“You take a deep breath that you’re healthy, because you can be the best football you want in Week 3 and get all banged up and not have the same players in district and it not matter,” Waldie said. “So first and foremost, it’s health. The end of the game, if we’re healthy, that is a huge beginning.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Apache Field.