STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
HUMBLE — The West Orange Stark Mustangs came into the game with the Navasota Rattlers having allowed just 42 points all season thinking they were going to dominate in the clash between the two titans.
But like the 13 teams that came before them, the Mustangs found out that things don’t always go as planned.
Navasota put up 28 points in the first half and never looked back on its way to a 38–7 victory in a Class 3A Division II quarterfinal matchup at Turner Stadium on Friday night.
“We felt like we had to come out on fire and try to score early,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “They have a great defense and they have not been behind and that is tough on a defense that hasn’t been behind.”
The victory improved the Rattlers’ record to 14-0 and moved them into the semifinal round and one step closer to reaching the ultimate goal of playing for a state championship.
Navasota will face either Bellville or Port Isabel in the semifinals. Those teams will face each other Saturday in Corpus Christi.
The Mustangs, who were one of the top defensive teams coming into the game, saw their season end at 13-1.
Navasota’s defense, which had been equally as impressive this season forced five turnovers from the West Orange Stark offense, intercepting Jimmy Salter three times and causing a pair of fumbles.
“I am proud of our kids,” Fedora said. “Our defense played great and did a great job of getting those turnovers. The Rattlers wasted no time scoring, taking the opening kick and covering 67 yards in just three plays.
Coming in Salter had thrown just two interceptions, but Dustin Savensky, Collins and Lamarquis Jefferson each picked him off.
Kadarius Baker, who finished the night 11-for-19 for 136 yards and three touchdowns, threw the first of his three first-half touchdowns for the score, connecting with Austin Collins from 46 yards out.
Michael Martinez’s extra point made it 7-0 Navasota just 1:14 seconds into the game.
The teams traded turnovers before Baker upped the Rattler lead, this time hooking up with Tarrance Creeks from 30-yards out to make it 14-0.
Collins was in on the Rattlers’ next two scores, getting one offensively and one defensively. First he got open in the back of the end zone, helping Baker, who was scrambling away from pressure. Baker spied him and connected with him for the 10-yard score. Collins finished the night with five receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Then Collins went to work defensively when he hauled in the Rattlers’ third interception of the half. After hauling it in at the Mustangs’ 33-yard line, Collins cut across the gain and with a wall of blockers in front of him went the distance to give the Rattlers to 28-0 lead heading into the halftime.
Collins put the final nail in the Mustangs’ coffin when he lined up in the wildcat formation and raced through the defense and ran away from everyone for a 37-yard score.
The final points for the Rattlers came off the foot of Martinez, who improved to 12-for-12 on field goal attempts this season when he drilled one through from 44 yards out.
The Mustangs got their only points when they blocked a Navasota punt and recovered it at the Navasota 3-yard line. Chase Rutledge carried it in from their for the touchdown.