STORY BY TIM SCHNETTLER
TAYLOR — It may not have been the prettiest of victories Friday night, but the shine of a gold football will make it look a lot better.
The Navasota Rattlers scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after the Taylor Ducks had pulled even, grabbing a 41-20 victory over at Memorial Stadium, giving the Rattlers the outright District 18-3A championship.
The Rattlers, who improved to 9-1 overall and 4-0 in district play, move into the Class 3A Division I playoffs where they will face Waco Robinson, which lost to La Vega on Friday.
Navasota and Robinson will meet Saturday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. at Waco ISD Stadium.
“I thought in the first half our defense was outstanding and our offense was playing well, we just weren’t finishing,” Rattler head coach Lee Fedora said. “We made a few mistakes and we let them get back into it but our kids continued to fight and we came out with a big victory.
“Our first goal is winning the district championship and I am very proud of our guys.”
The Ducks finish the regular season at 3-7 and 2-2 and will also be in the Division I playoffs, taking on La Vega, a team they upset last year in the playoffs.
The Rattlers needed a big push in the fourth quarter after allowing the Ducks to score back-to-back touchdowns to tie the game at 20 with 9 minutes and 12 seconds left.
To get it started they turned to Derrion Randle and the junior running back answered the call in a big way. After two incomplete pass to start the drive, the Rattlers handed the ball off to Randle on seven consecutive plays.
Randle, who finished with 192 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, accounted for all 75 yards on the drive, capping it with a 3-yard scoring run that put the Rattlers in front to stay.
“I thought we ran the ball hard,” Fedora said. “We didn’t bounce around, we just hit it down hill and ran over people. That was a great job by Derrion.”
The Rattler defense stretched the lead when Jerbrell Lipscomb was in the right place at the right time, hauling in a pass that went through the hands of Caleb Cooper, returning it 25 yards for another Rattler touchdown which took the wind out of the Ducks’ sails.
LaMarquis Jefferson, who last week rushed for three touchdowns, capped the scoring on the night when he broke loose on a 50-yard scoring run after the Rattler defense had forced a three-and-out that included a sack by Ladarius Roberson.
The Rattlers jumped out to a 13-0 lead after the first half, but big defensive plays by the Ducks and a couple of costly penalties kept the Rattler lead from being even larger.
Navasota took the opening kick and marched 70 yards in just nine plays with Randle scoring on a 2-yard run.
The Rattlers looked like they were going to add to their lead later in the quarter when they got to the Taylor 1-yard line. But on a fourth down run the Ducks’ defense turned away Randle, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Rattlers did add two more scores in the second quarter, both coming via the leg of junior kicker Michael Martinez.
Martinez, who came into the game just 4-of-10 on field goal attempts this season, went 2-for-2 in the first half connecting from 34-yards and then again from 22-yards just before the end of the first half to send the Rattlers into halftime up 13-0.
Navasota’s offense finished with 484 total yards of offense — 335 rushing and 149 passing — while the Rattler defense held the Ducks to 237 total yards — 142 rushing and 95 passing.
Jefferson also topped the century mark rushing for the Rattlers finishing with 118 yards on 18 carries.