STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
On the checklist of accomplishments for the season, the Navasota Rattlers have managed to strike through one — securing their sixth straight trip to the playoffs. Friday night, in the regular-season finale, the top-ranked and undefeated Rattlers can cross two more off their list with a victory over the visiting Taylor Ducks.
A victory over the Ducks would conclude an undefeated regular season. It would also give the Rattlers (9-0, 3-0) the outright District 18-3A title, their third consecutive district championship.
The Rattlers and the Ducks (4-5, 2-1) will meet at 7:30 p.m. at Rattler Stadium, with both teams already having clinched a playoff berth. The game can be heard live on Navasota News 1550 KWBC, beginning with the pregame at 7.
Navasota punched its ticket to the playoffs last Friday with a 58-0 victory over the Caldwell Hornets. The shutout was the third straight for the Rattlers, and the fourth on the season.
“This game against Caldwell was probably the most hard-hitting I have seen in a long time,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “We were very physical. It says a lot about our defense. We have only given up 43 points in nine games and that is phenomenal. I am very proud of the way our kids are playing.”
Taylor, meanwhile, was busy upsetting Madisonville, 13-9, giving the Ducks and first-year coach Rusty Purser one of the district’s three playoff spots.
With the Ducks making the playoffs, the Rattlers will compete in the Division II (small school) bracket after consistently making deep runs in the Division I bracket the past five seasons.
Taylor has managed to open some eyes this season during district play, starting with an upset of the Rockdale Tigers in triple overtime. The euphoria of that victory did not last long, however, as the Ducks lost in the closing seconds to Caldwell the following week.
The loss to Caldwell appeared to put a kink in the Ducks’ chances to make the playoffs, but last week they managed a victory in a slugfest with Madisonville, which was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
“They were picked at the beginning of the year to finish fourth in a five-team district and I think he [Purser] has done an outstanding job,” Fedora said. “Nobody thought he was going to beat a Rockdale or a Madisonville and he beat both of those and he is in the playoffs.”
The Ducks have leaned heavily on the run this season (1,957 yards) and have a trio of running backs among the top seven rushers in the district.
Senior Ray Rodriguez leads the way with 801 yards and six touchdowns on 147 carries, while fellow senior Justin Deary has 588 yards and five touchdowns on 111 carries. Junior Isaac Franco rounds out the rushing leaders with 372 yards and six touchdowns on just 45 carries.
The Ducks can throw the ball, compiling just under 1,000 yard through the air in the first nine games. Senior quarterback Jeremy Snyder is fourth in the district with 980 yards on 80 completions. He has thrown seven interceptions and just three touchdowns.
“They are run-happy, that is what the want to do,” Fedora said. “What Snyder brings to the table is he can scramble and get out and do the things he needs to do. The big thing is when you are getting ready for a run-oriented team you are so geared up to stop the run that you have got to make sure you are focused and reading your keys because all of the sudden they fake that run and they et a guy wide open.”
On defense the Ducks are allowing 315.9 yards per game, with teams having almost equal success running the ball (1,286 yards) and passing it (1,557 yards).
In Navasota’s victory over the Hornets, the Rattlers dominated from start to finish, leading 49-0 at the half, allowing head coach Lee Fedora to rest the majority of his starters for the entire second half.
In just one half of work, senior quarterback Kadarius Baker threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his touchdowns were to Solomon McGinty who had seven catches for 164 yards.
The Rattlers will open the playoffs on Thursday, Nov 15 at Bryan High’s Merrill Green Stadium. The time and the opponent have not been determined yet.
NOTES — District 18-3A’s final playoff spot is till up for grabs and will go to the winner of Friday’s game between the Rockdale Tigers and the Caldwell Hornets. Both teams enter the contest, which is being played in Rockdale, 1-2 in district play ……… The Rattler Tailgate Party and Radio Show makes its return on Tuesday night starting at 7 p.m. at Mallett Brothers Barbecue. The show, which can be heard live on 1550 KWBC, will feature head coach Lee Fedora as well as assistant coaches and players. Fans are encouraged to join Rattler play-by-play announcer Tim Schnettler and color commentator Scott Clendenin at Mallett Brothers as the Rattlers get ready for the playoffs.