Leopards deny Apaches in dramatic finish, 35-34
LA GRANGE -- It started with a bang and ended with a shocked gasp.
"It was a tough way to lose a ball game," Gonzales Apaches head coach Ricky Lock said after La Grange's Dillon Davis came up with two turnovers in the final 1:20 of the game to enable the Leopards to pull out a 35-34 victory in their district opener Friday.
The Apaches and Leopards swapped the lead back and forth in the contest, with La Grange taking a 35-34 lead with 5:11 remaining in the contest. Gonzales marched right back down the field, however, spurred by a 27-yard pass completion from Matt Hillman to D.J. Gonzales that reached the 2-yard line.
On the next play, however, Zack Lopez couldn't connect on a handoff on a power play and the Leopards' Davis wound up with the ball after a scramble at the 4-yard line with 1:18 left to play.
"You get to the 2-yard line and lose the ball, you're going to have trouble winning like that," Lock said.
Despite the turnover, the Gonzales defense and two timeouts got the Apaches the ball back with 45 seconds to play. But the Apaches, who moved the ball well all night, couldn't get any closer than the Leopards' 30-yard line, and Davis picked off a desperation pass with 21 seconds remaining to seal the win. It was his third takeaway of the game.
The dramatic finish helped La Grange capitalize on a sparkling performance by Leopard quarterback Logan Vinklarek, who hit 10 of 11 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's a veteran quarterback and we knew coming in he was good," Lock said. "But we had our chances."
It was a tough night for the yardstick crew to keep pace, as the teams combined for more than 700 yards of offense and seven scoring plays of 19 yards or more.
The first of those plays came on the first snap from scrimmage, when Gonzales' Cecil Johnson scooted through a gaping hole on the right side of the line and raced 65 yards for a score just 10 seconds into the game. Johnson, returning after a one-game suspension, carried 27 times for 238 yards for the Apaches.
Gonzales looked as if it might put this one away quickly just moments after Johnson's first score, when Bralon Hutchison muffed the kickoff and Darron Hernandez pounced on it at the Leopards' 30-yard line. The Apaches reached the 13 before Davis picked off a fourth-down pass and spotted the Leopards the ball at the 6-yard line.
Rodney Filmore ripped off a 22-yard gain, then added a 5-yarder before Vinlarek ran the play action to perfection and found Hutchison wide open behind the Apache secondary, hitting him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Following a Gonzales punt, the Leopards marched 91 yards in seven plays to take the lead as Vinklarek nailed Cassel Tezeno at the back of the end zone with a 34-yard bomb.
The Apaches roared back in the second quarter, however.
After a longball pass was picked off by Ryan Scott deep in LaGrange territory, the Leopards moved to the 27 before Filmore coughed up the ball on a move up the middle. The ball bounced right into the hands of the Apaches' Lopez, who dashed 30 yards into the end zone to make it a 14-13 game. A personal-foul penalty after the play led to a botched conversion attempt that would come back to haunt Gonzales.
After an exchange of punts, Gonzales demonstrated its long-ball capabilities when Hillman and Darrance James teamed up - first on a leaping grab good for 32 yards, then on a heave into the end zone that James plucked out of the air for a 19-yard touchdown.
La Grange struck back moments later following a 35-yard kick return by Hutchinson when Vinklarek nailed Trey Supak with a pass at the back of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to take a 21-19 lead.
The Apaches responded with a nice 58-yard, two-minute drill. Hillman hit Gonzales with one outlet pass for a 12-yard gain, then connected with James on a middle screen good for 28 yards to move the ball to the 1-yard line before taking it over himself with one second remaining in the half. Lopez bulled in with a two-point conversion play to stake the Apaches to a 27-21 lead at halftime.
The second half began pretty much the same way the first one did for the Apaches. After the Leopards were stopped on downs at the Gonzales 21 to open the half, Johnson danced for one 12-yard gain before again breaking free on a long touchdown run, this time of 68 yards, to put the Apaches up by a 34-21 score.
But La Grange wasn't ready to write this one off. The Leopards responded with a 62-yard, nine-play march which ended when Vinklarek nailed Filmore in the flat and the running back punched it into the end zone from seven yards away to trim the Gonzales lead to 34-28.
Following an Apache punt, the Leopards took the lead with a 75-yard, 11-play drive ending in Hutchinson's 4-yard run.
"We didn't have the ball a lot in the second half," Lock noted. "They held on to it pretty good."
The Apaches now find themselves in an uphill battle to grab one of the district's playoff spots.
"It's like I said, every game in this district is going to be a war," Lock said. "We got Giddings next week, they're state-ranked, we're going to have to be ready."
La Grange 35, Gonzales 34
Gonzales 7 20 7 0—34
La Grange 14 7 7 7—35
GON — Cecil Johnson 65 run (Matt Hillman kick)
LG— Bralon Hutchinson 68 pass from Logan Vinklarek (Marco Cerda kick)
LG—Cassel Tezeno 34 pass from Vinklarek (Cerda kick)
GON—Zack Lopez 30 fumble recovery (pass failed)
GON—Darrance James 19 pass from Matt Hillman (pass failed)
LG— Trey Supak 25-yard pass from Vinklarek (Cerda kick)
GON —Hillman 1 run (Lopez run)
GON—Johnson 67-yard run (Hillman kick)
LG—Rodney Filmore 7 pass from Vinklarek (Cerda kick)
LG—Hutchinson 4 run (Cerda kick)
Team Stats Gon LG
First downs 15 18
Rushes-Yds 30-245 40-152
Passes 7-15-3 11-13-0
Passing yards 139 225
Punts-Avg 3-29.7 2-35.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3
Penalties-yards 6-80 5-26
RUSHING: Gonzales, Cecil Johnson 27-238, Zack Lopez 2-6, Matt Hillman 1-1. La Grange, Rodney Filmore 23-116, Logan Vinklarek 10-12, Bralon Hutchinson 4-12, Dillon Davis 3-12.
PASSING: Gonzales, Matt Hillman 7-15-3-139. La Grange, Logan Vinklarek 10-11-0-204, Cassel Tezeno 1-1-0-24, Dillon Davis 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: Gonzales, Darrance James 4-88, D.J. Gonzales 2-39, Coltin Russell 1-12. La Grange, Cassel Tezeno 4-87, Trey Supak 3-48, Rodney Filmore 2-16, Bralon Hutchinson 1-68, Dillon Davis 1-6.