Corsicana — When Navarro needed a big second half from its defense in Week 2 against No. 6-ranked Hutchinson, it responded by shutting down the Blue Dragons en route to a 25-point victory.
The Bulldogs needed another huge effort on that side of ball again on Saturday and the defense once again stepped to the fore, allowing zero points, 43 yards and registering four sacks as Navarro defeated Kilgore, 35-21, at Tiger Stadium.
Navarro’s victory, coupled with top-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast’s loss on Thursday, should allow the Bulldogs to ascend to the NJCAA No. 1 ranking this week.
The excitement about the big win over co-SWJCFC favorite Kilgore and the almost assured new No. 1 ranking will be tempered by the probable loss of starting quarterback Josh Greer. The sophomore injured his throwing shoulder on Navarro’s next-to-last series. He went to Navarro Regional Hospital for x-rays after the game.
Fellow sophomore Alex Allen will be primed to take over the reigns of the Navarro offense and the Bulldogs will have to burn the redshirt of freshman Carson Earp, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound Waco Robinson grad who the coaching staff has praised throughout fall workouts.
The Bulldogs will get to relish their fourth straight win for at least a couple of days before worrying about their quarterback situation.
Navarro found itself tied at 21 with Kilgore at the half thanks to a huge imbalance in field position and inconsistent offensive play in the opening two stanzas.
But that wasn’t a problem in the second half when running backs Tim Wright and Cameron Washington helped the Bulldogs control the clock and the scoreboard.
Wright, who led all rushers with 135 yards, scored on a 16-yard run in the third period and Washington stepped off a 28-yarder midway in the fourth quarter as part of his 100-yard night.
With the running game behind an offensive line featuring five freshmen controlling the clock, Navarro’s defense teed off on Kilgore quarterback Tanner Tausch, sacking him eight times for minus-48 yards. Navarro’s defense forced Kilgore into 12 negative plays.
“We knew this one wasn’t going to come easy,” said Navarro Coach Brian Mayper. “Kilgore selected to win the conference along with us for a reason. They are a very good football team.
“But when our defense had to answer the call, they did it in a big way in the second half.”
Navarro receiver/kick returner Austin Collins also did a bit of answering in the first half, returning the opening kickoff 84 yards to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
After Kilgore tied the score on running back Ladaedrix Payton’s 11-yard scoring run, rifled a 20-yard pass to Collins for his second score of the game.
The extra point was botched and Payton added a 1-yard run to put Navarro down 14-13 early in the second quarter.
Greer, who was 14 of 24 for 171 yards, went back to his other favorite target, firing a 78-yard touchdown pass to speedy Devin Lauderdale. The kick was blocked, but holder Tarlandus Mitchell corralled the ball and smartly passed to Keree Renchie for a 21-14 Navarro lead at the 7:44 mark of the second quarer.
While Navarro started only one series beyond its 29 in the first half, Kilgore opened four possessions inside Bulldog territory. The last starting at the Navarro 41 as time dipped under three minutes. Tausch, who was limited to 4 of 12 for 45 yards in the second half, was 9 of 16 passing for 151 yards in the first 30 minutes, the final completion going 21 yards to Morris Williams to knot the score at the half.
“We had too many penalties and didn’t play that well in the first half,” Mayper said. “But our offense did a much better job in the second half of finishing off drives.
“We also got the big half from our defense. To get that many sacks and that many tackles for loss was absolutely huge for us.”
Navarro 35, Kilgore 21
Kilgore 7 14 0 0 — 21
Navarro 7 14 7 7 — 35
N — Austin Collins 84 kickoff return (Robert Macias kick)
K — Ladaedrix Payton 11 run (Luis Sanchez kick)
N — Austin Collins 20 pass from Josh Greer (pass failed)
K — Payton 1 run (Sanchez kick)
N — Devin Lauderdale 78 pass from Greer (Tarlandus Mitchell pass to Keree Renchie)
K — Morris Williams 21 pass from Tanner Tausch (Sanchez kick)
N — Tim Wright 16 run (Macias kick)
N — Cameron Washington 28 run (Macias kick)
First Downs 15 20
Rush-yards 37-58 50-225
Passing yards 196 171
C-A-I 12-29-1 4-24-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 4-0
Punts-avg. 7-41 6-38
Penalties 12-75 7-72
Rushing — K: Eddie Smith 19-71, Ladaedrix Payton 4-12, Tanner Tausch 11-(-46), Jeremiah Baines 1-4, Louis Dailey 1-9, Jeremiah Baines 1-4, Morris Williams 1-8; N: Tim Wright 21-135, Cameron Washington 20-100, Josh Greer 5-(-9), Tarlandus Mitchell 1-2, Alex Allen 3-(-3).
Passing — K: Tausch 12-28-0-196, Herman Dupas 1-2-0-9; N: Josh Greer 14-24-0-171.
Receiving — K: Derrick Ledet 3-24, Morris Williams 2-53, Andrew Peterson 2-5, Colin Jeter 2-24, Louis Dailey 2-86, De’Ondre Jackson 1-4, Eddie Smith (1-(-12); N: Devin Lauderdale 4-91, Austin Collins 4-48, Tim Wright 2-16, Markel Steward-Gillespie 2-4, Edwin Mims 2-13.