STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
NAVASOTA — The Harris Ratings had the Navasota Rattlers as a 31-point pick over the La Grange Leopards in Friday night’s 23-3A-football tilt at Rattler Stadium. As Maxwell Smart used to quip, “Missed it by that much.”
Actually, Harris missed it by a bunch, as the Rattler fans had to hold their breath until a 2-point conversion in overtime by La Grange came up empty, preserving a nail-biting 27-26 overtime victory for Navasota.
The victory improved the Rattlers’ record to 6-1 overall, and more importantly 2-0 in district play. La Grange dropped to 1-6 and 0-2 with the loss.
“The good thing is there is no ugly win,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “It is a win and we are still perfect in district.”
After the Leopards connected on a 23-yard field goal to tie the game with just three seconds remaining, the teams headed to overtime. It seemed that all the momentum was on the Leopards’ sideline, but the Rattlers quickly took it back on the first play of overtime.
Quarterback Kadarius Baker lofted a perfect pass to Jacob Malek in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. Cesar Barron added the extra point to put the Rattlers up 27-20.
La Grange had the answer, however when quarterback Logan Vinlarek, despite tripping over his own lineman, managed to keep his balance and find paydirt from 2-yards out.
Riding the wave of positive emotion on their sideline, the La Grange coaching staff elected to go for the victory, keeping its offense on the field for the 2-point conversion try.
Vinlarek rolled to his left, and tried to hit Chance Supak with a pass, but Xavier Creeks managed to get a hand in and knock the ball to the turf, allowing the home crowd to exhale and celebrate a victory.
The Rattlers had their chances to avoid being in overtime, despite not playing one of their sharper games on the season. Twice in the fourth quarter Navasota had touchdowns taken off the board because of penalties, one on a holding call and the other on offensive pass interference.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight,” Fedora said. “We had chances to put it away, but we had some penalties [that hurt us].”
For its part, La Grange kept the potent Navasota offense on the sidelines, using a ball control offense to keep the ball out of the Rattlers’ hands. Navasota ran just three plays in the first quarter, and early in the fourth quarter had run just three in the entire second half.
“La Grange did a good job of controlling the football,” Fedora said. “It is hard to get it together and get going [when you only run three plays].”
The Rattlers trailed 3-0 at the end of the first quarter after La Grange took advantage of a muffed kickoff and drove 31 yards before settling for a 31-yard field goal from Marco Cerda.
The Rattlers finally got going offensively early in the second quarter when Baker, who finished the night 12-of-22 for 227 yards, threw the first of his four touchdowns on the night when he hit Jamison Coles on a receiver screen. Coles made a nifty move to the inside and raced 32 yards for the first score of the night for the Rattlers.
Less than three minutes later the Rattlers added to their lead, again going to the air. This time Baker hit Austin Collins for a 24-yard score. On the play, La Grange defensive back Justin Neiser gambled, trying to get the interception, but he came up empty and the Rattlers took a 14-3 lead.
La Grange cut into the deficit as it turned Baker’s second interception of the night into points. Chris Read picked off the pass and returned it to the La Grange 48. Six plays later Chance Supak bulled his way in from the 6-yard line. Jake Bauer blocked the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 14-9 heading into the half.
Navasota upped its lead midway through the third when Baker hit Solomon McGinty in stride on an 88-yard score. The extra point failed, leaving the score at 20-9.
The Leopards scored twice in the fourth quarter and converted a 2-point attempt to force the teams to play overtime.
The Rattlers will be on the road next week as they travel to Caldwell to take on the Hornets on Friday night.