It was so different for the Caprock Longhorns on Thursday night than in their triumphant season opener at Dick Bivins Stadium a week earlier, while it was all too similar for the Palo Duro Dons at Bivins.
That meant in the same place but a different year, the result was exactly the same as it was the previous six years.
Which explains why Caprock once again left Bivins happy. In a game which defensive aficionados had to appreciate, the Longhorns were the most dominant, as they took advantage of their opportunities to defeat the Dons 23-3 and beat Palo Duro for the seventh straight season.
It wasn’t a district game between the two Class 5A rivals as has been the case for most of the last three decades. But that did nothing to diminish the intensity of the rivalry, at least when each team put its defense on the field.
“Rivalry games are always crazy,” said Caprock coach Dan Sherwood, who as an Amarillo High graduate should know. “(The Dons) gave us everything we wanted, especially up front with their defensive line. We kind of got punched in the mouth there in the first half and we found a way to respond and I’m proud of them for that. They handled adversity. Not all games are going to go like last week.”
That was when everything went right for the Longhorns, as they piled up almost 600 yards of offense in a 54-7 win over Hereford. Nonetheless, the result was the same this week, and Caprock is 2-0 for the first time since 2018.
The Longhorns were just as good defensively against Palo Duro (0-2), but the Dons pretty much matched them, as Caprock outgained PD by a mere 176-171 yardage margin and both teams had only 11 first downs. Defense was the name of the game pretty much the whole evening.
Caprock took the opening kickoff and put together a solid drive which stalled just inside Palo Duro’s 15-yard line. When it broke down, Joel Gijon kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Longhorns a 3-0 lead.
That was it as far as offense in the first half. Caprock didn’t pick up another first down in the half after making two on that first drive, and Palo Duro wasn’t much more prolific, picking up only six first downs and outgaining Caprock 135-96.
But when the Dons moved inside Caprock territory, they simply couldn’t convert, spoiling a strong defensive effort similar to a 35-7 loss to Tascosa a week earlier.
“Defense is playing well but it’s real simple, if you can’t score points you can’t win,” PD coach Eric Mims said. “Defense is playing well enough to win but on offense we’ve got to capitalize on drives. We got into the red zone three times and came away with three points tonight. You can’t do that and win. You’ve got to score and not turn the ball over on fourth down.”
The biggest play of the first half came midway through the second quarter when Palo Duro quarterback Avery Randle was sacked by Ivan Flores, who stripped the ball. Delco Gonzalez picked up the fumble and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead.
“Whenever things go bad, we’ve just got to keep our heads up,” Gonzalez said. “Making that touchdown brought a big mental boost to all of us. We just really picked it up from there. It felt like a dream really. It seemed I had to run my fastest.”
It was still a competitive game in the third quarter as Palo Duro drove inside the Caprock 10-yard line. When the drive stalled, Jacob Jimennez hit a 27-yard field goal to get the Dons on the board and cut it to 9-3.
But the Longhorns responded with their best drive of the night, as Jamel Acosta-Lewis came in at quarterback and Caprock went almost exclusively to the Wildcat. Acosta-Lewis scored on a 10-yard run to give the Longhorns a 16-3 lead and basically put the game on ice.
That was the first of two scoring runs for Acosta-Lewis who also had a 9-yard with 3:17 left to conclude the scoring.
“They call me Batman,” said Acosta-Lewis, who sports a Batman sticker on his helmet and had a game-high 66 yards on nine carries. “We call that formation Batman. I know I can’t be stopped when I’m giving it my all, but without my teammates I’m nothing.”