BY TIM SCHNETTLER
NAVASOTA — It took the Navasota Rattler offense some time to find its stride Friday night, but when it did it looked like a well-oiled machine, running off 28 unanswered points en route to a 35-7 victory over Willis in the season opener for both teams.
While the offense had to work to find its rhythm, the Rattler defense picked up where it left off last season, holding the Wildkats to 186 total yards and not allowing an offensive touchdown. The only score on the night for Willis came on a kickoff return that covered 85 yards.
Sophomore Shelton Eppler was tabbed to start at the quarterback position, and while he looked shaky at times, he finished the night 17-of-30 passing for 320 yards and three touchdowns. As a unit, the Rattler offense finished with 566 total yards, 215 rushing and 351 passing.
After failing to cash in on several opportunities early in the game, the Rattlers finally broke through at the 4:09 mark of the first quarter when Eppler hit fellow sophomore Tren’Davion Dickson for a 57-yard touchdown pass.
The lead and the momentum was short-lived, however, as Chris Platt returned the ensuing kick 85 yards for a touchdown, the only time the Wildkats would find the end zone on the night.
Navasota had several more chances in the first half to put points on the board, but misfired on three field goals and the teams entered the half deadlocked at 7-7.
Neither team did much to begin the second half, but in a span of 5:54 the Rattlers put up three touchdowns to take control and begin to pull away.
First Eppler and Dickson connected again, this time from 43 yards. Michael Martinez’s extra point made it 14-7.
Just more than a minute later, the Rattlers added to the lead, and they only needed one play to do so, as Jerbrell Lipscomb went in motion from right to left, took a shovel pass from Eppler and turned it into a 73-yard touchdown.
Davon Jernigan, who had an outstanding night on defense, took his turn at quarterback late in the third quarter, calling his own number and busting loose for a 36-yard scoring run to make it 28-7 as time expired in the third quarter.
The Rattlers tacked on one more score late in the fourth when Derrion Randle scored on a 7-yard run, to put the wraps on the victory.
Navasota turned the ball over four times on the night — two fumbles and two interceptions — while forcing the Wildkats into two turnovers — one fumble and one interception.