STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
– WALLER – Last season when the Navasota Rattlers and the Sealy Tigers met in the first round of the playoffs, the Rattlers took a 10-point lead into the half, then failed to score in the third quarter before pulling away with a solid fourth quarter.
This year the Rattlers again led by 10 at the half. This time, however, they wasted no time pulling away. Navasota used a 14-point third quarter to increase its lead Friday night, on its way to handing the Tigers a 40-13 defeat in the Class 3A Division I bidistrict round of the playoffs at Waller ISD Stadium.
The victory moves the Rattlers (10-1) into the area round of the playoffs where they will face the either Silsbee or Hufman-Hargrave, who meet Saturday night. Sealy, meanwhile, ends its season at 8-3
“I am very proud of our kids,” Rattler head coach Lee Fedora said. “I thought our kids fought hard. That was a great team we played tonight and our kids came out on top.”
In the deciding third quarter, the Rattlers scored on both of their possessions, marching 53 yards in just five plays for one score and 75 yards in just three plays for their other.
They also shored up the defense in the second half, holding Sealy quarterback Ricky Seals-Jones to just 14 rushing yards, after allowing him to gain 117 in the first half.
“The Seals-Jones kid is phenomenal,” Fedora said. “You saw several times where it looked like we had him down and he broke free. He is a great athlete. We prepared all week for a guy like that.”
The Rattlers jumped on top early in the game, needing just two plays to do so. After gaining nothing on the first play of the game, Kadarius Baker went up top, finding Solomon McGinty behind the defense.
McGinty hauled in the pass at the Sealy 25 and the outraced everyone to the end zone for the first score of the night. Cesar Baron’s extra point made it 7-0 Rattlers less than a minute into the game.
It was the first of two touchdown passes on the night for Baker who finished the night 6-for-8 passing for 148 yards. He also rushed for 23 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a stinger in the third quarter.
Navasota added to its lead at the 3-minute mark of the first quarter when Baron connected on a 20-yard field goal after the Rattlers stalled at the Sealy 3-yard line.
Sealy put together back-to-back solid drives deep into Navasota territory the next two times it had the ball, but came away with points on just one of the drives.
The lone score of the half for the Tigers came on a 1-yard run by Jowan Davis, capping a 12-play 65-yard drive.
Seals-Jones led the Tigers on another drive into Rattler territory, but it stalled at the Rattler 6-yard line. A 23-yard-field goal attempt by Erik Hernandez was short, but the Rattlers were flagged for offsides, giving the Tigers another shot.
They came up empty again, however, when they ran in Austin Pratt to try a 20-yard field goal, which was wide right.
Sparked by the stop, the Rattler offense drove 80 yards in just six plays for a touchdown, the score coming when Baker hooked up with Austin Collins from 44 yards out.
After hauling in the pass at the 25, Collins made a move that left Seals-Jones in his wake, then got a crushing block from Jared Sauls as he waltzed into the end zone, giving Navasota a 17-7 lead at the half.
Sealy got the ball to start the second half, but was forced to punt. A short punt into the wind gave the Rattlers the ball at their own 47, and five plays later Baker went in from 2-yards out.
The next time the Rattlers got the ball, they went 75 yards to increase their lead. Jacob Malek, who took over at quarterback, hit McGinty for a 70-yard gain to the Sealy 5, when he rolled left and then lofted a perfect pass to the wide-open receiver.
Two plays later, Malek crossed the goal line, putting the Rattlers ahead by 24, and in the process, deflating the hopes of the Tigers.
The Rattlers added a safety in the fourth quarter when Josh Thomas forced Seals-Jones out of the back of the end zone when he lost the handle on the snap from center.
Malek capped the scoring for the Rattlers with a 9-yard run that came after a Jerbrell Lipscomb interception that gave the ball to the Rattlers at the Sealy 19.
Sealy added a late touchdown on Davis’ second scoring run of the night, but by then, the victory was well in hand for the Rattlers.