BANQUETE — The cars honking as they drove by the Banquete Bulldogs’ illuminated stadium showed how much South Texas has missed high school football.
So did the almost 100 Lyford fans that traveled two hours for a scrimmage. They showed up early, spreading out along the visiting bleachers an hour early to beat the capacity limit, and cheered loudly for their Bulldogs even though the “win” won’t count.
Lyford’s run game, led by senior Gavino Morales, stole the show, and its defense showed tenacity as the District 16-3A Division I Bulldogs outscored Banquete 14-6 after two live quarters.
“Oh man, it feels great, running the ball and being back with everything that’s going on,” Morales said. “We’re a big football town, and this shows how everyone loves to come out and support us. Small town has to stick together. I feel like we put on a great show, it was a good game.”
For the first 45 minutes, the teams alternated working defense and offense twice each. Lyford rolled with starting senior quarterback Cayleb Klostermann during its first series and gave junior backup Brendan Nunez reps in the second. The offense didn’t offer many fireworks either time, but Morales was strong, a foreshadowing for the live scrimmage portion.
Morales impressed with his speedy and powerful running style. He pounded through lanes in the middle of the field and beat the edge for long runs throughout the night. Morales set up the first score of the night for either team with a strong run, keeping his legs pumping for extra yards with a plethora of Banquete defenders on his back. He capped the drive he carried with an 11-yard rushing touchdown.
“Honestly, I feel like everything panned out due to the linemen. Without them, I couldn’t do anything. But I felt like my vision was good, though it wouldn’t have mattered without the line,” Morales said.
The passing game struggled for most of the night, but Klostermann did connect with senior receiver Matt Sanchez for a redemption score late in the second quarter. After dropping a potential touchdown pass on the previous drive, Sanchez extended Lyford’s lead to 14-0 by hauling in a well-defended pass in the corner of the end zone.
“I think a little bit of it was just missed timing and jitters early on. We haven’t seen anybody but ourselves, and it’s hard to simulate game speed,” Lyford coach Israel Gonzalez said. “They did a good job of bringing pressure off the edge and it threw us a little bit off with our timing, but we figured it out in the second half. I’m a firm believer of taking what they give us and they were giving us the run game, so that’s what we took.”
Lyford’s defense kept Banquete in check for most of the night. The Bulldogs orchestrated a goal-line stop behind the efforts of senior linebacker Tony Rowland, junior linebacker Benji Gonzalez and junior defensive back Mark Marroquin. Banquete did get on the board after a long run late in the second quarter, but Gonzalez felt the defensive unit was solid as a number of two-way players contributed all night, including Morales, Benji Gonzalez, Louis DeVries, Oscar Chavez and Diego Guerra.
Despite some early jitters, Israel Gonzalez was pleased with his team’s performance and said the scrimmage served its purpose.
“I saw a lot of kids get in that we needed to see. Scrimmages aren’t about who ends up with more points in my book, it’s about kids getting out there and us seeing what we need to see out of individuals,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to put some points up, but at the same time I think we left a lot of points out there that we could’ve had. But it was good, and I think it’s going to be a great learning tool for us.”