Sonora's Late-Season Resurgence a Testament to Strength of Ailing Community
SONORA, TX-- The 2018 season has not gone quite the way the Sonora Broncos imagined, whether it was injuries, losses or natural disasters.
On Sept. 21, the water from the Dry Devils River swelled well above its banks. Over 250 homes sustained damaged according to officials. “Several” members of the Broncos football team were among those affected directly and indirectly, according to head football coach and athletic director Jeff Cordell.
The flooding happened a day after the Broncos lost to the Wall Hawks. That was the second game in a five-game skid for Sonora. During that time, Sonora had injuries and illnesses affect their team.
After a loss to Class 4A Burnet, Sonora opened District 13-3A Division II with losses to eventual district champ Blanco and Ingram Moore by a combined 11 points.
With their playoff lives on the line, Sonora returned home following the Moore game and dominated Comfort to get off the proverbial ropes. The Broncos took that momentum to Johnson City and won to clinch a playoff berth.
“It means a whole lot,” Cordell said. “It says a lot about this team, the character of this team, this coaching staff. We knew, going into the season, we had a gauntlet in our schedule week 3, 4 and 5. Then you couple [that with] the flooding, kids losing homes, kids with mono … a tweak here or there. If things could go wrong for the Sonora Broncos, it was close.”
Make no mistake, those are not excuses. “They’re just roadblocks we’ve had to tackle,” Cordell added.
Cordell credits this playoff berth to his team’s persistence.
“In fact, I wrote a quote up on the board today, “A river doesn’t go through a rock by its power. It does it through its persistence,” Cordell said. “This is kinda what this program’s about. Continue to believe in one another. Continue to believe in this staff. Trust the adjustments we’re making offensively and defensively. And its paid off for us.”
One of those adjustments has been a transition from the air to the ground. In 2017, Sonora threw for 282 yards per game. This year, that number has dropped to 174 yards per game and the Broncos dropped back to pass twice against Johnson City.
“It’s really based on injuries,” Cordell said of the transition. “It’s not necessarily that Brian Van Winkle did a poor job [at QB]. It’s just, with the injuries we had, we felt we were better off, had a better chance of success with Wesley Dutton at quarterback. That could change based on the team that we face next.”
Despite Dutton starting, Van Winkle has been supportive of his team, as they are with each other, Cordell said.
“The whole team has been that way,” the second-year head coach added. “They understand what their role is and they’ve accepted it.”
It’s not surprising that the long-time friends have each other’s back like that.
“He’s been my best friend since we were little kids,” Dutton said. “When I come off the field, he’s there for me. Whenever he comes off, I’m there for him.”
The Broncos embody that spirit with a chant before running out of the tunnel to reaffirm that the team has each other’s back.
Cordell says that mentality is “huge” for the Broncos.
“You have to have that in adverse times,” Cordell added. “Life is not about everything going your way. How you handle those detours, as I called it the other night, is what really defines you as a team. I think our kids, how they’ve handled this detour that we’ve been on longer than we wanted to -- now we’re back on that path we want to be on in the state playoffs -- is a testament to their commitment to one another and that family environment.”
Entering the season with 17 returning starters and 22 seniors, one of Sonora’s goals was to win a state title. At 4-5, they’re not wavering from that goal.
“Winning a district championship, that’s not going to happen,” Cordell said. “But, ultimately, winning a district championship doesn’t mean you’re gonna win a state championship. Our goal was to make the Texas high school state playoffs. Anything can happen in the Texas high school state playoffs.”