STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
BRYAN — An opposing offense finally found a way to score against the Navasota Rattlers, but it didn’t matter because their defense couldn’t find a way to contain the Navasota offense.
Kadarius Baker threw for six touchdowns — three each to Austin Collins and Solomon McGinty — and ran for another as the Rattlers rolled past the China Spring Cougars, 62-16 at Merrill Green Stadium in Class 3A Division II bi-district action Thursday night.
The victory improves the top-ranked Rattlers record to 11-0 and moves them into the area round where they will face either Groesbeck or Jasper next Friday night at Conroe’s Buddy Moorhead Stadium with the time to be determined. China Spring, the third-place team from District 17-3A, saw its season end at 6-5.
Navasota’s offense amassed 526 total yards with baker throwing for 385 and the rushing game finishing with 141. Collins led all receivers with seven catches for 162 yards and McGinty hauled in five passes for 151 yards.
“I am very proud of the way our kids played,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said.
Though the Rattler defense did yield 16 points, it played solid throughout the night, yielding just 253 total yards (102 rushing and 151 passing) to a team that came in averaging 403.6 per game.
“I thought our defense responded well,” Fedora said after seeing his unit yield its first points since the Austin McCallum game in the first week of October.
Navasota led 21-10 at the half, but an impressive third quarter in which they outscored China Spring 21-0, helped them pull away and put the game well out of reach.
The Rattlers scored first on the night when Baker went in from 2-yards out to cap an eight-play 50-yard drive that was set up when China Springs’ quarterback Kade Munden fumbled. Jaylyin Minor recovered it for the Rattlers setting them up at midfield.
The Cougars answered when they drove 71 yards, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Daven Pruitt.
Navasota stretched its lead on the first play of the second quarter when Baker hit McGinty streaking across the middle for a 45-yard touchdown pass to cap a seven-play 70-yard drive that made it 14-3.
The Rattler defense forced a punt the next time China Spring got the ball. On the kick Xavier Creeks raced down the sideline for what appeared to be a 67-yard score, but a block in the back away from the play wiped it out.
It was only a temporary setback, however, as Baker connected with Collins on a 59-yard touchdown pass on the very next play that upped the lead to 21-3.
After that play the Navasota offense was bit by the turnover bug, giving the ball away on its next two possessions.
First Baker was hit from the blindside on a blitz by Rashaad Miller, causing Baker to fumble. Miller fell on the ball, giving the Cougars a first down at the Navasota 39-yard line.
Eight plays later Munden busted up the middle from the 2 to score the Cougars’ first touchdown of the game making it 21-10 with 1:39 left in the half.
The Rattlers got great field position when Collins returned the ensuing kick to the China Spring 41-yard line, but Baker was intercepted by Tyler Fuller when a pass intended for Collins went through his hands.
China Spring got the ball to start the second half, but the Navasota defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back for the offense.
The Rattlers only needed three plays to score as Baker hit McGinty for a 43-yard score.
The Rattler special teams got in on the scoring action after Navasota was forced to punt. After Blaze Moorhead fielded the punt Minor stripped him of ball. Dustin Savensky was there to scoop it up and race 11 yards for a touchdown and a 35-10 lead.
Back-to-back touchdown passes from Baker to Collins — one covering 22 yards and the other 30 — pushed the lead to 49-10 with 11:52 left in the game.
China Spring added one more score on a trick play that resulted in a 53-yard pass from Tyler Fuller to Hunter Hancock before Navasota put up two more scores.
Baker ended his night with a 22-yard scoring pass to McGinty and then backup quarterback Keyshawn Philio scored from 8-yards out to cap a three-play 35-yard drive that was set up by a Jake Bauer fumble recovery.