STORY BY TIM SCHNETTLER
NAVASOTA — The Navasota Rattlers started District 18-3A the same way they ended it last season, by posting a shutout.
The Rattlers (6-1 overall and 1-0 in 18-3A), who did not allow a point in district play on their way to the 2012 Class 3A Division II State Championship, blanked the Madisonville Mustangs, 49-0, at Rattler Stadium on Friday night.
The Navasota defense controlled the line of scrimmage and limited the Madisonville (4-3, 0-1) offense, which came in averaging 292 yards per game, to just 111 total yards (74 rushing, 37 passing) and kept them out of the end zone.
“We thought a big key was we had to win the battle up front on offense and defense,” Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. “We did that and to start out 1-0 in district is what you want.”
Sophomore quarterback Shelton Eppler had an outstanding night, completing 22-of-29 passes for 353 yards and five touchdown passes. Eppler connected with 11 different receivers on his way to a 76 percent completion rate.
“What Shelton will tell you is the more snaps he can get in game situations, the more poise he will get,” Fedora said. “I thought he did a tremendous job on his check-down reads and I saw tremendous improvement from him.”
The Rattler offense finished with 418 total yards as they added 65 on the ground, where the hard-running Derrion Randle had a pair of scores.
“I thought he had some great runs when things broke down,” Fedora said.
Eppler got the scoring going the first time the Rattlers got the ball when he engineered a five-play, 61-yard scoring drive that culminated in his first touchdown toss of the night when he hit Hunter Sparkman over the middle for a 25-yard score.
Michael Martinez added the first of his seven extra points on the night to make it 7-0 Rattler at the 8:36 mark of the first quarter.
The Rattlers didn’t find the end zone again until the second quarter when Eppler and Tren’Davion Dickson hooked up on a 24-yard scoring pass that came after a 36-yard punt return by LaMarquis Jefferson gave the Rattlers the ball at the Madisonville 24.
Randle got his first score of the night just before the half when he went in from the 2, following a pass over the middle to Jefferson that gave the Rattlers first-and-goal. Randle’s score put Navasota up 21-0 at the half.
The third quarter was the most productive of the night for the Rattlers as they found the end zone three times.
Eppler and Dickson hooked up for the second time on the opening drive of the half when Eppler lofted a ball to the end zone that Dickson went up and grabbed over Jaylen Manley for a 21-yard score, capping a nine-play, 70-yard drive.
The Rattler had another nine-play drive that resulted in a score when Eppler found Willie Creeks in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard score that made it 35-0 with 4:58 left in the third.
Randle added his second score of the night, this one from 14-yards out, after Davon Jernigan returned a punt to the Madisonville 17. Jernigan looked like he was going to score on the return, but the last man who had a shot to tackle him, Brent McCloud, was able to haul him down.
The Rattlers rounded out the scoring in the fourth on Eppler’s fifth touchdown pass of the night, this one a 15-yard shovel pass to Nick Gurka.
The Rattlers have a bye next week and return to action on Oct. 25 when they travel to Rockdale to take on the Tigers.