STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
Conventional wisdom dictates that the farther a team goes in the high school football playoffs, the tougher the competition will be. For the Navasota Rattlers that will ring true when they take the field Friday night to face the Jasper Bulldogs in the area round of the Class 3A Division II playoffs.
The Rattlers (11-0) and the Bulldogs (9-2) will face off at Conroe’s Buddy Moorhead Stadium with the kickoff slated for 6 p.m. The game can be heard live on Navasota News 1550 KWBC with the pregame set to air at 5:30.
Navasota is coming off a 62-16 thumping of the China Spring Cougars in their playoff opener and Friday night the challenge gets a little tougher.
“They are a very athletic group and they are very confident in what they are doing,” Rattler head coach Lee Fedora said of the Bulldogs. “You are going to see a lot of athletes on the field.”
In the victory over China Spring, the game was fairly close for a half with Navasota taking a 21-10 lead into the halftime.
The Rattlers took control of the game with 28 unanswered points in the second half as Kadarius Baker threw three touchdown passes and Navasota’s special teams got in on the act with Dustin Savensky scooping up a fumbled punt and returning it for a touchdown.
“At halftime we told our kids to stay focused,” Fedora said. “We came out the second half and showed what the Rattlers are all about.”
Jasper, meanwhile, is coming off a similarly dominant victory in its playoff opener. The Bulldogs scored the first four times they touched the ball en route to a 58-27 pasting of the Groesbeck Goats.
The Jasper offense was keyed by running back Terrance Cuney, who rushed for 211 yards and four touchdowns in the fist half. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior will present a challenge for a Rattler defense that has been solid against the run this season, allowing just 105 yards per game on the ground.
“He is a big kid and when you see that size you wonder how fast is he?” Fedora said. “Once he breaks a tackle, you can see that he can take it to the house. He is one of those guys that you are not going to be able to hit him up high, you have to wrap him up and get him to the ground.
“We have to make sure we do a good job of flying to the ball and have 11 blue jerseys getting there every time.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs like to bring pressure, and lots of it, daring teams to throw the ball. They also are capable of forcing turnovers, which they did against Groesbeck, including one that resulted in a touchdown.
“They are a blitz-happy team,” Fedora said. “They want to put pressure on your quarterback and they want to confuse your offensive line. All that tells you if they have confidence in their secondary.
“I’m not saying that they haven’t played great opponents, I just don’t know if they have faced a passing game like we have. We have been showing our kids blitzes all week long to be prepared for this.”