East's offense sputters in loss to Gonzales
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GONZALES - This was not how the Roland Gonzalez era was supposed to start, with his Titans trudging off the field after losing a physical contest to an undersized opponent.
But this was the case Friday night. Victoria East lost 27-6 to a Gonzales team that has now won 11 straight regular-season contests.
Not only did East have a numerical advantage against the Class 3A Apaches, but a size superiority as well. When Gonzales head coach Ricky Lock saw the size of the Titans interior linemen, and others, in pregame warm-ups, he did a double-take.
For Gonzales, the plan was to possess the football and keep the Titans off the field. It worked, and then some.
Cecil Johnson topped the 200-yard mark when he ran through the East defense for a third time with one minute remaining. His 35-yard touchdown run was the third of the night for the senior, who ran for more than 1,700 yards a season ago.
At the outset, Johnson was running ahead of his blocks, which kept him from bursting the big play. But, he remained patient and let the men in front of him "take (me) to the promised land."
"They were doing a good job," Johnson said. "They were pushing off the ball, making holes. After they started making the holes, it was just easy after that. All I had to do was find a hole and get down, or follow right behind the linemen and get those five or six yards every time."
Johnson may have said it was easy, but that might be an overstatement.
The game was scoreless for the first 20 minutes. Gonzales drove inside the East 30-yard line three times in the first quarter. Matt Hillman threw an interception and the defense forced a turnover on downs twice.
"They played outstanding," Gonzalez said about the Titans' defense. "They played very tough, and they kept us in the ball game early. I have nothing but good things to say about that."
The Apaches scored four touchdowns Friday night, but two of those drives started after East fumbled the football on its half of the field.
The Apaches opened their account for the season two plays after East muffed a Hillman punt. Johnson took a delayed hand-off 45 yards for a touchdown with 4:06 remaining in the first half.
"That was a good team we played, but we could have done better by handling the ball," said Titans sophomore Jonathan Ortega. "One of them was my fault. I fumbled the ball, and they scored off it. We need to take care of the ball and everyone needs to be secure with the ball. No more turnovers."
When the Titans did have the football they were not able to do much with it. Three fumbles and an interception stymied their rhythm.
Quarterbacks Mark Cavazos and Cameron Schultz were a combined 9 for 21 passing for 69 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. East mustered 207 yards of offense on the night, a fifth of which came on one play: Chris Clark's 42-yard touchdown run with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
Ortega said Clark's run gave the Titans confidence that they could get the ball back and score again. However, it was not to be.
With Johnson, Zach Lopez and freshman Alyas Ramirez running the football for the Apaches, they were able to control the clock.
East trailed 14-6 entering the fourth quarter, but by that point the Apaches held the ball for 20:37 to the Titans' 15:33. A pair of Johnson touchdowns in the fourth widened the margin of defeat.
"This is great competition for us," Gonzalez said after his first official game as Victoria East's head coach. "The way you get better is playing good people. We most definitely played a good football team tonight.
"We're going to go back, review film, and make the corrections we need to make and work on getting better every week. I think we played better tonight than we did in the scrimmage. We just have to improve next week as well."