STORY BY TIM SCHNETTLER
WILLIS — One half yard. That is all that stood between the Navasota Rattlers and the tying touchdown Friday night. With the Rattlers trailing the Willis Wildkats and a mere 4 seconds left on the clock, Navasota faced a first-and-goal from the Willis’ 2-yard line.
The Rattlers, who moved to the 2 with a pair of passes to Solomon McGinty and a pass interference call, turned to tailback Howard Horn to try and push it in from there.
Horn took the pitch from Kadarius Baker, went to the left,and despite his best efforts, was dragged down just short of the end zone, as the Rattlers dropped a 35-28 non-district contest Friday night.
“We came up a yard short, but the effort out of our kids was outstanding,” said Navasota head coach Lee Fedora. “The second half, I felt our defense gave us a lot of opportunities. We played a dang good Willis team and we showed a lot of fight.”
The exciting finish was only fitting for a game that saw the teams combine for 56 points in the first half. After the teams went up and down the field in the first half, both defense rose to the challenge and barred their teeth.
The only score in the second half came when the Rattlers(1-1) marched 63 yards in eight plays to pull within seven. The score came when Howard Horn, who finished the night with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 12carries, took a pitch and raced in from 12-yards out with 1:00 left in the third quarter.
Neither team came close to scoring again until Willis moved deep into Navasota territory, late in the fourth quarter, only to turn the ball over on downs with less than a minute left on the clock.
With only 48 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, the Rattlers were 80 yards away from the Willis’ end zone. It didn’t seem the phase them as Baker hit McGinty on a fly pattern for a big gainer into Willis territory.
A pass interference play tacked on another 15 yards and the Baker threaded the needle to McGinty who was double covered, with McGinty hauling in the pass and going out of bounce at the Willis 2-yard line with four seconds left, only to come up just short on the ensuing play.
Things started with a bang for the Rattlers as they recovered a fumble at the Willis 7-yard line on the second play of the game. It didn’t take them long to cash in as Jacob Malek caught a swing pass for 6 yards and then plunged in from the 1-yard line for the first score of the game.
As quickly as Navasota went on top, Willis answered, needing just two plays and 29 seconds to knot the score. Willis quarterback Fred Nixon threw the first of his three touchdown passes on the night, hooking up with Robert Johnson, who got behind the defense for a 70-yard score.
Willis (2-0) would tack on two more scores over the next seven minutes, capitalizing on a short field both times before the Rattlers found the end zone again.
Navasota’s score came when Horn took a handoff, broke to the outside and outraced the defense for a 75-yard romp. Cesar Baron’s second extra point of the night made it a 21-14 game heading into the second quarter.
Willis upped the lead with two more scores, both on passes, making it 35-14. Nixon hit Kevin Markham for a 21-yard score then connected with Demarcus Kizzie for a 20-yard strike.
Navasota scored the final points of the half when Baker hit McGinty on a slant pattern for a 32-yard score on fourth down. On the play, the Willis defense was cheating up and the Rattlers had the perfect play called, with Baker and McGinty executing it to perfection.