STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
– GIDDINGS – It is often said that in games between two solid teams special teams can make the difference. Friday night in the Navasota Rattlers’ regular-season finale, the saying rang true.
The Rattlers used a 70-yard return by Solomon McGinty of a bad snap on a field goal attempt to put a charge into their sideline following a lackluster first half, propelling them to a 27-16 victory over the Giddings Buffaloes at Buffalo Stadium.
The victory capped an undefeated 5-0 District 23-3A season for the Rattlers, giving them their second consecutive outright district championship. The Rattlers finished the regular season with a 9-1 overall mark, their only loss coming in the second week of the season to Class 4A Willis.
“We got concerned coming over here because Giddings is a good football team,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “We told them [the players] it is a hostile environment and we didn’t play the first half like we needed too.
“We went in at halftime and all we told our kids was we know what type of team we are, and it is going to show in the second half. Special teams got a big play for us and that got our energy going. I am proud of our kids and their effort tonight.”
The victory propels the Rattlers into the Class 3A Division I playoffs where they will open against the Sealy Tigers, next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Waller ISD Stadium.
Before McGinty’s return the Rattlers were on the ropes and Giddings was driving to try and deliver the knockout punch. But the Rattler defense, which struggled in the first half, came up big stopping the Buffaloes and forcing a 28-yard field goal attempt.
The snap to holder, and Giddings quarterback Jackie Wade, sailed over his head and was rolling on the turf. McGinty scooped it up and with a convoy of Rattler players returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Rattlers within three points.
It also breathed life into the Rattlers, who forced the Buffaloes to punt the next time they had the ball. Navasota’s offense, which struggled through the first, responded with an 83-yard drive following the punt, with Austin Collins turning a bubble screen into a 40-yard touchdown, giving the Rattlers the lead.
The Rattlers added another big special teams play midway through the fourth quarter when Giddings’ punt returner Jamil Jackson muffed the kick and Austin Baumert picked it up at the Giddings’ 9-yard line.
On the next play Baker lofted a perfect pass into the end zone to McGinty putting the Rattlers up by 11, and dashing the Buffaloes’ thoughts of a co-district championship.
McGinty, who had a touchdown reception in the first half, accounted for three of the Rattlers’ scores, finishing the night with six catches for 80 yards. Collins added seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Baker, who is the leading candidate for the player of the year in the district, finished the night 16-of-20 for 183 yards and three touchdowns, throwing for 104 yards in the second half.
Navasota’s defense, which was gashed for 225 yards in the first half, allowed just 89 in the second. After allowing tailback Joseph Glenn, the district’s leading rusher, to rumble for 90 yards and a touchdown in the first half, the Navasota defense held him to 63 in the second.
Additionally, Wade, who was 7-of-10 passing for 104 yards in the first half, went 0-for-9 in the second half.
The Rattlers’ playoff game with Sealy can be heard beginning with the pregame at 7:05 on Navasota News 1550 KWBC.
Additionally, the first Rattler Tailgate Party and Radio Show will take place on Tuesday night beginning at 7 p.m. at Mallett Brothers Barbeque. It will also be broadcast live on Navasota News.