By Rob Ludwig
Corsicana Daily Sun
MIAMI, Okla. — —
If the Navarro Bulldogs thought the drive to Miami, Okla. was long last Saturday, they won’t be happy with the lengths they’ll have to go to win the Southwest Junior College Football Conference postseason.
When Patrick Sohrt’s 46-yard field goal attempt with 23 seconds left was dead on but fell just short of the crossbar it gave Northeastern Oklahoma A&M a 26-24 victory and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It also sent the Bulldogs on the road for its opening playoff game.
Navarro (7-2 overall, 4-2 in SWJCFC) will return to the site of its only other loss when it plays at Kilgore in the first round of the SWJCFC postseason. NEO (8-1, 5-1) will host Tyler at 2 p.m. in the other first-round game.
If Navarro and NEO win, the Bulldogs will make the seven-hour trek back to Miami next week. Only if Tyler upsets NEO for the second time this season will Navarro host a playoff game, taking on the Apaches a month after trouncing Tyler at Tiger Stadium.
Navarro had its chances to upend NEO, going ahead for the first time. The Bulldogs trailed the entire game before going ahead on running back Traylon Shead’s third touchdown run at the 3:35 mark of the fourth period. Navarro traveled 75 yards on seven plays, including a 35-yard pass from Stump Godfrey to Jordan Jolly. Shead, who also had a 17-yard run on the series and had 101 yards on 19 carries, closed the drive with a 4-yard burst up the middle.
NEO quickly went to work on the next possession as quarterback Clayton Mitchem fired a 35-yard completion to Michael Thompson and a roughing-the-passer penalty pushed the ball to the Navarro 13. After an Andre Ross sack of Mitchem, Navarro forced a fourth down. Kenneth King came on for a 42-yard game-winning field goal with 1:54 remaining in the game.
“You’ve got to give (NEO) a lot of credit because they made some great individual plays,” said Navarro Coach Brian Mayper. “We had some great ones, too, but they made more in the end.”
It looked as if Sohrt might have the best play of them all in the waning seconds of the game. Navarro took over at its 37 with no timeouts and 1:48 remaining. Quarterback Stump Godfrey hit Shead with a swing pass to the NEO 37 and had a scramble to the 20 that was nullified by a holding penalty, forcing Sohrt’s long field goal try.
“It came off (Sohrt’s) foot great, but then it just died before it got there,” Mayper said. “It was like wind hit it just as the ball arrived at the goal post.”
Turnovers and penalties plagued Navarro throughout the game, though it trailed only 6-3 at the half. The tempo picked up in the third quarter as NEO scored on touchdown passes of 13 and 14 yards from Mitchem to Kameron Doolittle.
Navarro kept it within 10 and finally tallied touchdowns 15 yards by Godfrey and 5 yards by Shead in third quarter.
Navarro forced three turnovers in the first half and had four trips into the red zone, but came away only with a 32-yard Sohrt field goal in the first period.
“It looked like a great defensive struggle for a half, but both teams made adjustments at halftime and had a lot of scoring opportunities,” Mayper said. ‘We just came up one opportunity shy for the win.”
NEO 26, Navarro 24
Navarro 3 0 14 7 — 24
NEO 6 0 14 6 — 26
NEO — Gerald Howse 3 run (kick blocked)
N — Patrick Sohrt 32 FG
NEO — Kameron Doolittle 13 pass from Clayton Mitchem (Kevin King kick)
N — Stump Godfrey 15 run (Sohrt kick)
NEO — Doolittle 14 pass from Mitchem (King kick)
N — Traylon Shead 5 run (Sohrt kick)
NEO — King 42 FG
N — Shead 4 run (Sohrt kick)
NEO — King 34 FG
First Downs 19 18
Rush-yards 55-268 41-175
Passing yards 114 150
C-A-I 16-25-1 12-23-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-3
Punts-avg. 4-38 4-35
Penalties 12-137 9-105
RUSHING: Navarro, Shead 19-101, Tim Wright 13-79, Tarlandus Mitchell 6-49, Stump Godfrey 14-38, Tyler Middleton 2-2, Tony Drake 1-(-1); NEO, Howse 15-70, Mitchem 13-36, Garrett Powell 1-29, Casey Curtis 5-26, Dawson Myers 2-12, Sheldon Wilson 3-5, Alverey Braxton 1-(-1), Kameron Doolittle 1-(-2).
PASSING: Navarro, Godfrey15-24-1-116, Shead 1-1-0-(-2); NEO, Mitchem 12-23-1-150.
RECEIVING: Navarro, James Washington 5-47, Eddie Johnson 3-39, Middleton 3-(-12), Jordan Jolly 2-41, Wright 2-1, Godfrey 1-(-2); NEO, Doolittle 7-96. Michael Thompson 2-32, Fox 1-15, Curtis 1-5, Powell 1-2