For Gering senior Kaleb Gonzales, his senior year playing football is paying off after spending time playing 6-man football in Minatare.
On Friday night, Gonzales had one of the biggest defensive plays of the year with a interception touchdown to help the Gering football team record a dominating 34-0 shutout win over Torrington to give head coach Josh Hiatt his first career win.
The win was a team effort as the defense and offense clicked in, giving the Bulldogs their first win since 2017 and the first shutout in eight years when Gering registered a 21-0 win over Sidney on Oct. 21, 2011.
One of the biggest plays of the night was a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior Kaleb Gonzales late in the first quarter that helped Gering gain momentum. It turned a 7-0 game into a 14-0 contest and stopped a Torrington drive.
Gonzales, who played 6-man football at Minatare, said when he picked the pass off, he saw the opening to the end zone thanks to his blockers.
“I was just thinking how good it would be if I got the touchdown,” he said. “I saw all my guys coming and blocking for me and I knew I was going in.”
The interception for a touchdown was his first in 11-man football. Gonzales said he had two while he was at Minatare.
And, for someone that played 6-man football, Gonzales is picking up all the schemes in 11-man nicely.
“Well 11-man is a lot more guys on the field so I really have to be more crafty with running with the ball and learning the defensive schemes and learning the offensive schemes,” he said. “It is a lot more than six man.”
Gonzales, however, isn’t just a defensive player. He also handles the ball on offense and he is also the team’s placekicker. He is taking everything in and learning.
“I do a little bit of everything,” he said. “Coach has me everywhere so I learned a lot of new stuff.”
The defense stepped up big time in the win, recording the shutout. It was the first home shutout since 2007 when Gering shutout the Bulldogs. Gonzalez said the shutout is huge for this team.
“It’s really big for us because it shows us our defense is really working hard in practice, doing what we need to do covering those passes and those runs,” he said. “I am proud of what the D-lineman did.”
Even bigger yet was the fact the Bulldogs got the win. The win is a big confidence booster for the team as they head into a contest with Hastings on Friday.
“I think it is a really big win,” Gonzales said. “It gets our confidence up and it makes us believe in ourselves more than we have in the past. We all got riled up and fired up. Everyone really believed that we could win this game.”
Hiatt couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“They played great tonight. The kids really rallied around each other and battled the whole game,” Hiatt said. “That is what we told them it will take because Torrington is a good football team. They play hard and they have some great kids. Our kids kept battling and no matter what happened on offense or defense, they kept pulling together and fighting. It was nice having the shutout. I told our kids before the game that I wanted one quarter at a time. We kept doing that and that was awesome.”
As much as the defense was playing all out, the offense was clicking on all cylinders behind a strong rushing attack by Brady Radzymski, who finished with three touchdowns, and the precision-like passing of Anthony Walker, who found Kolton Ebbers on a number of long plays, including a 32-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter. Ebbers had over 100 yards of receiving yards.
Gering’s heady defense started right away as the Bulldogs recovered a fumble on Torrington’s first possession of the game. Six plays later, Radzymski found paydirt with a 2-yard run.
The game stayed that way until the late seconds of the first half. Torrington was driving and Gering had two big defensive plays to force a fourth-down at the 20 yard line. The Blazers went for it on fourth and the halfback pass play was intercepted by Gonzales and the senior who played 6-man football for Minatare last year returned it 90 yards for the touchdown. Gonzales then booted the extra point for the 14-0 lead after one quarter.
Gering added a third touchdown in the second quarter. The big play was two Walker to Ebbers pass completions, the first a 21-yard play and the second a 12-yard play. Radzymski finished off the drive with 4:33 to play on a 1-yard run for the 20-0 lead at halftime.
Both teams had two straight punts in the third quarter before Gering mounted a drive on their third possession. Radzymski was the big horse on the ground, accounting for 48 yards while Walker hooked up with Riley Schanaman on a 15-yard completion before Radzymski finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for the 27-0 lead.
The Bulldogs went up 34-0, scoring on their first possession of the fourth quarter on a 32-yard pass play from Walker to Ebbers.
Torrington had a drive going late in the game and moved the ball down to the 12-yard line with over three minutes to play. The Bulldogs’ defense came up big with two sacks and then forced to incompletions to take over on downs and they ran the clock out for the win.
While Gonzales was excited for the win, he knows that this win does a lot for momentum for the rest of the season.
“It is a really big win. Like I said it gets our confidence up and makes us believe we can play a whole game against anybody in the state,” Gonzales said. “We can build off a lot off of it. It shows us that our offense can do things and our defense can shut things down. It is really good to be out here and get this win. I am just really proud of our team for going 100 percent in all four quarters.”