Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

September 26, 2013

Navarro Football: No. 1 Navarro vs. Trinity Valley

Corsicana — Take a poll of the NJCAA football coaches and you’d likely get a resounding 100 percent yes if asked if they’d like their team ranked No. 1 in the country.

And then ask them when they’d like that ranking. Again, it’s unanimous they all want to be No. 1 the second week of December.

It took all of four weeks for coach Brian Mayper’s Navarro Bulldogs to ascend to the top spot in the NJCAA rankings and now defense of that No. 1 position begins in earnest against one of the most talented teams in the country.

Navarro hosts a 2-2 Trinity Valley team on Saturday at 7 p.m. that has played No. 2 Iowa Western within seven points, blasted Jayhawk Conference power Coffeyville 70-7 and last week dominated Cisco, 49-21.

“It’s a nice honor to be No. 1,” Mayper said earlier this week after his team defeated fellow SWJCFC preseason favorite Kilgore. “But now we’ve got to win. We’ve got to beat Trinity Valley this weekend and then keep winning each week until we achieve our ultimate goal, which is to be No. 1 in December.”

Navarro (4-0 overall, 2-0 in the SWJCFC) is in the middle of an arduous three-game stretch on its schedule. Having dispatched Kilgore 35-21 last week, the Bulldogs take on Trinity Valley at Tiger Stadium and then venture to Tyler for a date with an Apache team that is 4-0 and has risen to No. 7 in the NJCAA.

  Trinity Valley presents its own set of difficulties, namely the league’s most potent quarterback leading an offense averaging a conference-best 528.3 yards per game.

Ryan Polite, a sophomore who ironically transferred from UTSA after finding himself behind former Trinity Valley quarterback Tucker Carter on the Roadrunner depth chart, has lit it up in his first four games. The former Desoto star has completed 70.3 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns, averaging 331 yards through the air. The freshmen duo of Jarvis Baxter and Jataveon Green have 22 and 21 catches, respectively.

“Iowa Western got them down early and then Trinity Valley started scoring in a hurry,” Mayper said. “They’ve got that kind of team. They’ve got athletes all over the field and they have the ability to score at any point of the game. (Polite) does a lot of reading (defenses) at the line of scrimmage and they throw a lot more to the receivers in the slots. Trinity Valley gets the ball down the field in a hurry.”

The two teams share another trait — the ability to shut down opponents’ running games. Navarro is allowing only 52.5 yards per game on the ground, just two yards better than the Cardinals. Trinity Valley is giving up only 1.4 yards per attempt, compared to 1.6 for Navarro.

Navarro was especially hard on Kilgore’s offense in the second half last week, sacking quarterback Tanner Tausch four times and limiting the Rangers to minus-1 yard rushing in the final 30 minutes.

    “We’re deep on the defensive line right now and it showed in the second half (against Kilgore) because we were able to rotate guys in all night,” Mayper said. “The defensive line must get pressure on (Polite) on Saturday.”

The main difference between the two clubs is turnovers. Navarro is plus-6 in turnovers/takeaways and the Cardinals are minus-5. Navarro’s new 3-4 defense has forced 13 fumbles already this season. Meanwhile, Trinity Valley has put the ball on the turf 14 times, losing eight.

“It’s been proven whomever wins the penalty and turnover part of the game wins 90 percent of the time,” Mayper said. “We’ve got to get started fast on Saturday, play great defense, score quickly and get turnovers. Then we’ve got to keep that going throughout the game. If we do those three things, we’re going to win the game against a very talented (Trinity Valley) team.

“Last week, we started about as fast as a team could (Austin Collins returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a TD), but then we didn’t keep it up and they were tied with us at halftime. We cannot do that again this week.”

Navarro will be without starting quarterback Josh Greer (injured shoulder) for an undetermined amount of time, though they have veteran Alex Allen ready to step in as the starter on Saturday. Allen has completed 6 of 13 passes for 129 yards and has rushed for 51 yards and two scores in backup duty this season. Carson Earp, a smart, strong-armed freshman from Waco, will be Allen’s backup.

Although Navarro won’t stray too far from its quick-strike passing attack, it may lean heavily on the running attack that features a pair of 100-yard-a-game rushers in Tim Wright and Cameron Washington.

Whatever the offensive combination or personnel, the Bulldogs will stick with their coach’s mantra.

“Start fast. Great defense. Get turnovers. That’s how we’ll win,” Mayper said.

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