DeWitt County rivals share state spotlight
Sept. 7, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
Yoakum linebacker John Thomas Kelley is well-versed in the Bulldogs' rivalry with Cuero.
Kelley's father, Tom, is Yoakum's superintendent, but played football at Cuero.
Kelley's grandfather, Ray, was the principal at Cuero.
"It's very intense," said Kelley, a senior. "Nobody really likes each other while we were playing, but after the games everybody kind of gets along.
"My dad said at the end of the day, it's all about having fun. But it's not something to joke around about. Take it seriously and we're going to go in and try to beat them."
Cuero senior offensive lineman Josh Elliott takes a similar approach to the Gobblers' rivalry with their DeWitt County foes.
"It's two really close towns," Elliott said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's going to be a lot of fun. I would say it's almost as big as a state championship game. I've never played in one, but that's what I would imagine it would be like."
Yoakum (1-0) and Cuero (0-0) have state championship aspirations and have drawn the state's attention as they meet for the 108th time since 1911 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gobbler Stadium.
Yoakum made it to the Class 3A, Division I state final last season and comes into the game ranked No. 6 in the Class 3A state poll.
"What this game does for us...in fact, last year, they were so much better than us up front, but the kids played hard and had a chance to win at the end," said Yoakum coach Bo Robinson. "The thing we got out of it is we played against some really good guys and we played a whole game and we got in better shape in that game. That's why I like to play good people early. They're going to get you ready for later on in the year."
Cuero captured a 14-7 win over the Bulldogs in Yoakum last season and went on to the Class 4A, Division II quarterfinals last season. The Gobblers are ranked No. 6 in the Class 4A state poll.
"It's definitely a rivalry game that's important to both communities and it's a lot of fun to start off a football season with a big game like that," said Cuero coach Travis Reeve. " A lot of guys don't get to play in big games and we get to start off in one."
Cuero had its season-opening game against Houston KIPP Generations canceled because of Hurricane Harvey.
Yoakum went on the road and beat Hondo 33-0.
"The advantage it gives us is in the conditioning," Robinson said. "There's no way to duplicate game speed and game conditioning. That's how you get in shape is you play. We've got an advantage there. But we've been working on Cuero for one week and they've probably been working on Yoakum for two or three weeks."
Cuero leads the overall series 69-32-6 and has won the previous two games.
The Bulldogs' last win over the Gobblers was a 43-34 regional playoff victory in 2014 - which is the only time the teams have met in the postseason.
"Just looking at them, they're huge up front and they have tremendous speed," Reeve said. "They've got quite a collection of talent over there. They're going to be a great test for us and we're going to find out a lot about our football team."
"We should match-up better than last year," Robinson said. "We've got more experience up front than they do. But they're still good. They're Cuero."
A preview of the rivalry's intensity was on display during the summer when the teams played 7-on-7 at Memorial Stadium in Victoria, and Yoakum came away with a 20-19 win in overtime.
"That 7-on-7 stuff is all for show," Robinson said. "They're out there jacking around and talking trash, but in the end those kids all know each other. They respect them. They're going to get after each other. We've got a ton of respect for Cuero.
"What a program they've got. Everybody would like to be like them and have that kind of success for so long. We're going to get out there and try to kick each others teeth in for 48 minutes. At the end, you have tremendous respect for them. If you watched the 7-on-7, they were all after each other and as soon as it was over they were all hugging each other."
The hugs will be reserved for after the game as well as this year's bragging rights.
"Defensively, we're going to have to play really well," Robinson said. "They're like us. They have kids who can make big plays. Offensively, we just need to be more physical than them."
"We've got to do a great job of taking care of the football and just execute what we do," Reeve said. "It's going to be our first game and we can't let everything else keep us from being focused on what we do. It's going to be important that we execute. Defensively, we have to do a good job of containing them in the run game and offensively, we've got to control the football."