In a long-awaited triumph, the Bandera Bulldogs football team has clinched the district championship for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs secured their title with a resounding 35-7 victory over YMLA on Thursday night, improving their season record to 8-1 and a perfect 3-0 in District 14-4A Division II.
While the team still has one regular-season game remaining, facing Carrizo Springs on Friday night, their wins over Devine, Pearsall, and YMLA locked them into the top spot they've been striving to reach for over a decade.
"For these seniors, it has been five years of hard work and dedication, both in-season and off-season to get to this point," said Joel Fontenot-Amedee, the athletic director and head football coach. "Championships are won during the off-season, and our guys had a great off-season, this year in particular. We haven't cut any corners as a program – we built it the right way."
The championship-clinching victory featured another dominant second half from the Bulldogs. They outscored YMLA 29-0 after halftime. Bandera initially took a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter with a 21-yard touchdown pass from senior Jesse Cardenas to senior Corben Gonzales. However, YMLA managed to take the lead just before halftime, making it 7-6 after a 55-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
But in the third quarter, the Bulldogs staged a comeback with a 44-yard rush from Cardenas, who later scored a 6-yard touchdown run. Bandera's defense held strong, and Gonzales' interception set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Gonzales, extending the lead to 21-7. Cardenas scored again in the fourth quarter, and another interception by Gonzales set up a 1-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back Juan Cabrera for the final score.
The Bandera offense accumulated 422 yards in the win, with Cardenas leading the way with 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Cabrera contributed 150 yards and a touchdown, while Gonzales had a touchdown and two interceptions. Jeffry Thomas added a catch for six yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs limited YMLA to just 105 total yards, their lowest offensive output against any opponent this season. Jorge Cabasos led the team with nine tackles, while Gonzales was responsible for both turnovers with two interceptions.
In addition to the district championship, it was a monumental night for Cardenas, who surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards with the Bulldogs. His impressive career stats include over 3,000 rushing yards, 1,069 passing yards, and multiple touchdowns in various categories.
The Bulldogs will now prepare for their senior night matchup against Carrizo Springs, with a 7:00 pm kickoff on Friday. Regardless of the outcome, the Wildcats have been eliminated from playoff contention, while Bandera has secured the top seed in the district. Bandera's next challenge will be in the first round of the playoffs against the No. 4 seed from District 13-4A Division II, determined by the outcome of the Lago Vista and Jarrell game on Friday night.
Coach Fontenot-Amedee emphasized their commitment to finish the season undefeated in district play and encouraged the community to support the team on Senior Night.
Playoff shirts are now available at the following link: https://gogandy.com/banderahs-fbdistch23