STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
WALLER — The Navasota Rattlers are going to state!
The Rattlers kept their dream season alive with a hard-fought 24-7 victory over the Bellville Brahmas at Waller ISD Stadium in a Class 3A Division II semifinal game.
The victory improved the Rattlers record to 15-0 on the season, and moved them into the state championship game next Friday at 4 p.m. at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington against the Gilmer Buckeyes. Bellville saw its season end at 11-4.
It wasn’t easy for the Rattlers, as Bellville gave them everything they could handle, and did what no other team had done this season — kept the Rattlers from throwing a touchdown pass.
It didn’t matter however, as Xavier Creeks rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and Austin Collins returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to lead the Rattlers to the victory.
“We knew all week they were going to prepare for our passing game,” Rattler quarterback Kadarius Baker said. “The running game helped us win this game.”
Collins’ kickoff return was the first of two big first-half plays that helped the Rattlers reclaim momentum after Bellville had made plays to pull it back onto its side. The other was a goal-line stand on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the second quarter.
“The two things that changed the momentum were the fourth-down stop and the kickoff return by Austin,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “Our playmakers found a way to make plays.
Navasota’s defense had another solid outing, holding the Bellville running game, which came in averaging 254.2 yards, to just 93 yards. The Brahmas did manage 138 in the air, bringing their total to 231.
The first half was a slugfest with Navasota managing a 17-7 halftime lead.
“Bellville played their hearts out,” Fedora said.
The Rattlers got on the board when Michael Martinez connected on a 29-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the first quarter. The field goal kept Martinez perfect on the season, as he improved to 13 for 13 on field goals.
The Rattlers upped the lead to 10-0 when Creeks logged the first of his two touchdowns on the night going in from 2-yards out to cap a 9-play, 64-yard drive.
Bellville answered the Rattler turning to a trick play to move the ball inside the Navasota 10-yard line. A double handoff pass caught the Rattlers secondary sleeping, and Bronson Allen found Taylor Thompson behind the defense for a 52-yard gain to the Navasota 9-yard line.
Thompson completed the drive with a 7-yard run for the score that cut the Rattler lead to three points with 4:57 left in the second quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Rattlers to respond, however, as Austin Collins fielded the ensuing kickoff at the goal line, went up the middle then cut outside at the 30 and outraced everyone for a 100-yard return.
When Collins reached the Bellville 40, he had one man to beat, but Hunter Sparkman put a crushing block on Bellville’s Kyle Fuchs to clear the path to the end zone for Collins. Martinez’s extra point made it 17-7.
Bellville used another long pass to move deep into Navasota territory, and on third-and-goal from the 3, looked to score to cut the lead again.
However, one of the officials signaled that Bellville had called timeout before the play, a point that Bellville head coach Grady Rowe argued to no avail, and the score was taken off the board.
It would prove big, as Fuchs got to the 1 on third down, and then the Rattler defense stuffed him on fourth-and-goal to take over on downs at its own half yard-line.
Neither team was able to score in the third quarter, and Navasota put up the only points of the second half when Creeks scored from 18-yards out to make it 24-7 and seal the Rattler victory.