PORT LAVACA – Cade Kveton felt like Calhoun’s forfeit to Alice on Oct. 4 was the team’s double-edged sword.
The loss was its first district defeat, but it also gave the Sandcrabs momentum that would carry over into Friday night’s District 15-5A, Division II championship game against Corpus Christi Calallen at Sandcrab Stadium.
“Coach (Richard) Whitaker was really hard on himself after the Alice game,” Kveton said. “After that, we told ourselves we were going to win district for him. We told ourselves we were’t going to lose another game.”
Kveton and the Sandcrabs kept their promise to their beloved coach by winning the next five games, including Friday’s 17-6 win over the Wildcats, to secure the team’s first district title since 2012.
Calhoun (8-2, 6-1) will host the Class 5A bi-district round against Mission Sharyland at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s awesome,” Kveton said. “We haven’t won a district championship since 2012, so it feels great to do it again. It’s feels amazing that we get to play a home game.”
The Sandcrabs began the night averaging 56 points per game, but it was the defense that stole the show against the Wildcats.
No. 3 Calallen didn’t cross midfield until 6 minutes left in the first half.
“Our defense did a great job tonight,” Whitaker said. “The last time we played Calallen at home, we shut them out, and tonight we held them to 6 points. Coach (Cory) McFall did a great job preparing the kids, and that was big tonight.”
Calhoun, which began the night ranked No. 8 in the Class 5A state poll, opened the scoring on a 23-yard field goal by Joseph Quezada. Quarterback Conner Kestler added a 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give the Sandcrabs a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Sandcrabs added insurance early in the third quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by fullback Steve Johnson.
Calallen scored its first and only touchdown in the third quarter on a 6-yard run by quarterback Jarrett Garza.
“Our defense played crazy tonight,” Kestler said. “They have a really good offense and a good defense. It was an all-around good win. It’s going to be crazy next week playing at home in the first round. Hopefully, our crowd can get behind us and push us to a win.”
Kestler led the Sandcrabs’ offense with 132 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
Johnson finished with 70 yards on 16 carries to give him 1,986 yards on the season.
“We’ve come so far ever since our loss to Nuevo Leon earlier this year,” Kestler said. “We overcame adversity with Alice and every other step of the way. Our motto since Alice was ‘one week at a time,’ and hopefully we keep doing it for a while.”
Garza led the Wildcats with 124 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Charley Hill registered 52 yards on the ground.
“It feels great,” said Calhoun defensive back Dekyn Garcia, who secured the Sandcrabs’ win with an interception in the final seconds. “It’s a great feeling to be district champs and have a first-round home game. It’s going to be great.”
Calhoun DB Dekyn Garcia secured the Sandcrabs’ win with an interception in the final seconds. pic.twitter.com/iBvO9xCEE8— Rey Castillo (@reycastillo361) November 9, 2019
The Sandcrabs’ win over Calallen was its first against the Wildcats since 2012.
The win also denied Calallen coach Phil Danaher the 400th of his carer.
“Calallen is a very good team,” said Calhoun linebacker Elijah Harvey. “The defense came out and showed what it had to do. Everyone stepped up tonight, and we wanted this since we haven’t won a district title since 2012. We wanted to come out and make our community proud.”
Calhoun’s Elijah Harvey talks about the Sandcrabs’ success this season. pic.twitter.com/XkR1tkCXdi— Rey Castillo (@reycastillo361) November 9, 2019
Calhoun will spend the week preparing for its postseason run – starting with Friday’s playoff game against Sharyland.
The Rattlers, who finished fourth in District 16-5A, Division II, are coming off a 48-36 win over Edcouch Elsa.
“We get to come back home next week and hopefully we’ll keep playing well,” Whitaker said. “What a great victory tonight for our kids – they played their hearts out.”