STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
– WILLIS – Last season when the Navasota Rattlers ventured into Berton A. Yates Stadium they struggled through the first half and then watched a furious second-half comeback fall a yard-short.
This year the Rattlers made sure no late-game rally would be needed as they built a three-touchdown lead in the first half on their way to a dominating 42-0 victory over the Willis Wildkats in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
The first half was the Austin Collins show as the senior wide receiver caught a pair of touchdown passes from Kadarius Baker, one for 44 yards and one for 23, and then added an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown as well.
Collins finished the night with nine receptions for 137 yards, while Baker completed 22 of 28 pass attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Baker also added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“Kadarius did a great job and I was really proud of our offensive line,” Rattler head coach Lee Fedora said. “Austin is an unbelievable athlete. He gives 100 percent effort all the time. He is a playmaker that will do it on offense and defense.”
As good as the Navasota offense was, the defense was equally as good. The Rattler defense held Willis out of the end zone, in fact, Willis only ventured into Navasota’s side of the field twice on the night.
Willis totaled just 124 yards of offense — 44 rushing and 80 passing — and managed just five first downs. The Rattler defense also added two interceptions, the one by Collins and one by sophomore Franterric Powell.
In two scrimmages — against Sealy and Montgomery — the Rattler defense did not allow a point, and that trend continued against Willis.
“I have been very proud of our defense,” Fedora said. “We’ve got kids that are going to fly around and play hard.”
The Rattlers did not need long to get on the board, taking the opening kick and marching 85 yards in 9 plays. The capper came when Baker found Collins across the middle and the senior raced through the defense for a 44-yard score.
Michael Martinez added the first of his four extra points on the night to make it 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Collins and Baker hooked up again, this time on a 23-yard pass with 9 minutes and 18 seconds left in the second quarter. The extra point failed leaving the score at 13-0.
Less than 3 minutes later, Collins went to work defensively, intercepting a Lofton Bean pass at the Navasota 15-yard line. Collins broke down the sideline, made some nifty moves and took it 85 yards for a score. A 2-point pass from Baker to Solomon McGinty made it 21-0 heading into the half.
Navasota didn’t let up on the gas in the second half, as the defense forced a three-and-out on Willis’ first possession.
After taking over at its own 35-yard line, the Rattler offensive set off on its second nine-play scoring drive of the night. Baker and Collins connected on a pass that took the ball down to the Willis 1-yard line, and Baker called his own number from there, crossing the goal line to make it 28-0.
McGinty caught his first touchdown pass of the night following a Franterric Powell interception that gave the Rattlers the ball at the Willis 44. Baker went to the air on the first play, trying to hit Terrance Creeks. The pass was a bit to high, but Creeks tipped it and it fell right into the waiting hands of McGinty who was just across the goal line.
Navasota added one more score early in the fourth quarter, this one from backup quarterback Keyshawn Philio, who ran an option play to perfection, seeing that the defense was covering the pitch man and keeping it for a 16-yard score.