STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
It has been a long time in the making, but the Navasota Rattlers find themselves one victory away from reaching the pinnacle of high school football.
After 10 weeks of regular season football and five more of playoff ball, the Rattlers (15-0) will play for the Class 3A Division II state title Friday afternoon at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Rattlers, who ascended to the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A after the third week of the season, will face a Gilmer Buckeyes (14-1) squad that comes in playing its best ball of the season.
Kickoff between the teams is slated for 4 p.m. The game can be heard live on Navasota News 1550 beginning with the pregame at 3:30.
“You can see when you watch film they are a very disciplined team with great athletes,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “This will be a great challenge for us.”
Navasota earned its way into the championship game with a hard-fought 24-7 semifinal victory over a physical and disciplined Bellville Brahma team that had stymied opponents with its Slot T offense.
The Rattler defense was more than up to the challenge, however, limiting the Brahmas’ running game to less than 100 yards, and turning the Brahmas away from the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The goal-line stand, along with a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Austin Collins helped swing momentum back to the Navasota sideline after Bellville had started to pull it toward its sideline.
“They were all fired up after scoring to make it a 10-7 game and boom, you take that energy out of them [with the kickoff return],” Fedora said. “You could see it [the goal-line stand] shift everything and get our kids fired up.”
Gilmer, meanwhile, powered its way into the final game of the season by thumping the Graham Steers, 50-7 behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Tanner Barr. The Buckeyes also got four rushing touchdowns in the game, two each from Kris Boyd and Josh Walker.
Barr finished the night 13-for-16 passing for 287 yards. He also added 50 yards of rushing on nine carries.
“It is going to be a big challenge because of the fact that they are so balanced,” Fedora said. “They run the football well and they throw the football well. It is not like you are going into the game saying, ‘If we stop the run we will be OK.’
“We have to stop both of them. It is kind of like looking in a mirror, they are a lot like us.”