CUERO – Jackson Hardwick had no problem with Cuero’s effort, but he would have preferred a different outcome.

The Gobblers put together one of their most solid performances of the season, but the result was a 16-15 loss to Bandera in the District 13-4A, Division II opener for both teams on a chilly Friday night at Gobbler Stadium.

“That was our best game so far,” Hardwick said. “Our effort was great, our energy was great and we played well together as a team. We’re just going to keep molding our team to where we want it to be and come out with a ‘W’ next week.”

The Gobblers fell to 1-5 and find themselves in a position of needing a win to improve their chances of making the playoffs a season after winning the state championship.

“It’s been big plays and just getting in our own way offensively,” said Cuero coach Travis Reeve. “We have just not been able to sustain drives. We do a lot of good things. But we do enough things to get in our own way that have cost us some games.”

Hardwick carried 26 times for 97 yards and scored on runs of 5 yards in the first quarter and 3 yards in the third quarter.

But the Gobblers had trouble sustaining drives because of negative-yardage plays and turned the ball over twice.

“We’ve got to be able to sustain drives, and we can’t put ourselves behind the chains by negative plays,” Reeve said. “We’ve got to get rid of negative plays, and if we can do that, we’ll have a chance to be successful.”

Bandera (6-0) had only eight first downs, including two in the second half, but the Bulldogs took advantage of two big plays and a costly Cuero error.

Quarterback Solomon MacNeil threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Mason Phair on Bandera’s first play from scrimmage.

MacNeil also scrambled 35 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

“Sometimes they’re trick plays, and sometimes they’re mental plays,” said Cuero defensive back Kalan Malandrakis. “It’s just we’ve got to get better at that and work on it.”

The Gobblers had taken a 15-14 lead after Hardwick’s touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by quarterback J.D. Notaro on their first drive of the third quarter.

But after forcing a punt and taking over at their 1-yard line, Chase Blackwell replaced Notaro at quarterback, dropped the snap and was unable to get out of the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a safety with 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“He’s been working out the last two weeks, and I told him he was going in on that drive,” Reeve said. “It just ended up the ball was on the 1-yard line.”

The Cuero defense got the ball back to the offense three more times, but it was unable to convert a first down.

“I think the defense played real great tonight,” Malandrakis said. “We had a few big stops. In the first half, there were just too many mental errors. We came out in the second half and got rid of all those and started playing football. I think that really helped us out.”

The Gobblers travel to Llano next week, and they understand the time to better their position is growing shorter.

“We’ve got two choices, and winners only really have one,” Reeve said. “We have to keep pounding away. Because of our effort and everything we put into this one, it’s going to hurt for tonight. But we’ve got to move forward, and we’ve got another opportunity to get it turned around next week.”

Mike Forman is the sports editor of the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or by email at Follow him on Twitter at @mikeforman21

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Mike Forman is the sports editor of the Victoria Advocate. He has worked at the Advocate since 1982. He has a bachelor's degree from SMU and a master's degree from UCLA.

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