STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
An undefeated regular season is nice, but for the Navasota Rattler football team there are loftier goals, and their current record won’t mean much unless they can back it up in the playoffs.
The Rattlers get their first chance to take a step toward the goal of a state championship when they open the Class 3A Division II state playoffs against the China Spring Cougars.
The Rattlers (10-0) and the Cougars (6-4) will face off Thursday night at 7 at Bryan’s Merrill Green Stadium. The game can be heard live on Navasota News 1550 KWBC with the pregame starting at 6:30.
“All our kids are worried about is, are we going to come out and play Navasota Rattler football?” said Rattler head coach Lee Fedora. “They know that is we come out and play our style of football we’ve got a chance to beat anybody. They come out with great focus each and every week.”
The Rattlers ran roughshod through District 18-3A on their way to their third consecutive district championship. During the district season the Rattlers did not allow a point, outscoring their opponents, 191-0.
The play of the Rattler defense in district was a continuation of how it had performed in six non-district games, where they allowed just a total of 43 points. Throughout the entire season, opponents found it tough to move the ball on the Rattlers who after 10 regular season games are allowing just 152.3 yards per game — 105.7 rushing and a mere 46.6 passing.
“As an offensive-minded coach I would hate to prepare for our defense, especially our defensive front,” Fedora said. “Not only do they have great strength but they are quick and athletic.”
The Rattler defense will get a test from China Spring, which finished third in District 17-3A behind Lorena and La Vega.
“They are a very well coached team,” Fedora said of the Cougars. “They are going to have kids that get out there that are very disciplined and will play smart football. They are going to be a team that gives it their all and will fight for four quarters.”
The Cougar offense presents a somewhat balanced attack, but it tends to lead more toward a running game that features 1,000-yard rusher Hunter Hancock. The senior averages 7.2 yards per carry and has rushed for 18 touchdowns.
When China Spring decides to pass the ball, it turns to senior quarterback Kade Munden who has completed 57 percent of his passes (113-of-200) for 1,513 yards and six touchdowns.
His favorite target is junior Blaze Moorhead who averages 15 yards per reception (42 for 626 yards). He has two touchdowns on the season, and his numbers are far and away the best in the receiving corps, with the next highest total being 16 receptions for 253 yards.
“I think the biggest thing we are going to have to do as a defense is make sure we are staying focused and playing assignment football,” Fedora said.
The Rattlers counter with one of the most potent offenses in the state, which will challenge a Cougar defense that allows 343.1 yards per game.
Rattler quarterback Kadarius Baker followed up an impressive junior year with an outstanding senior season.
Baker finished the regular season with 2,946 passing yards, 37 touchdowns. He completed 63 percent of his passes (161-of-254) and was intercepted just four times.
Baker’s numbers have been helped by a receiving corps that is one of the best in the state, due in large part to the senior tandem of Solomon McGinty and Austin Collins. The duo has combined for 117 receptions for 2,390 yards and 33 touchdowns.
NOTES — The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to play the winner between Groesbeck and Jasper who play Friday night in Crockett … The other two 18-3A playoff teams will be playing Thursday and Friday. Taylor will play La Vega on Thursday and Rockdale will play Lorena on Friday. Both of those games are at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen.