It was far from pretty, even a little clunky and frustrating at times, but Navarro’s 35-10 victory over Blinn on Saturday achieved the necessary results by sending the Bulldogs to the postseason for the seventh straight season.
Navarro dominated in all phases against the Buccaneers, nearly doubling their conference rivals in total yards and scoring 21 straight points to end the game before a sparse crowd at Tiger Stadium.
The Bulldogs have a chance to earn the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular season championship and homefield advantage throughout the postseason when they travel to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M next Saturday for a 2 p.m. regular season finale.
Navarro (7-1 overall, 4-1 in SWJCFC) spotted Blinn a 3-0 lead on Kurt Walker’s wind-aided 59-yard field goal on the Bucs’ opening drive, but then unleashed its potent offense to score 35 of game’s final 42 points.
Quarterback Stump Godfrey passed for three first-half touchdowns and added a 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter as he averaged 26.2 yards per completion to offset two interceptions.
That seems impressive, but the Bulldogs had drives to the Blinn 12, 15 and 36 end with interceptions or a rash of penalties.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we won the game and that’s all that really matters,” Godfrey said. “It’s all about everyone coming together at the most important time of the season. We have to come together in the moment and we did that today even it wasn’t the best looking game to watch.”
Godfrey rallied his team to score twice in a 1:19 span late in the first quarter to erase an early Blinn lead. Godfrey connected with a streaking Jordan Jolly for 67 yards for a 7-3 Bulldog advantage with 3:19 remaining in the period to start Navarro’s seventh game of more than 35 points.
Ceavan Bowman recovered the ensuring kickoff that was muffed by Blinn’s Shyquawn Pullium at the Blinn 24. Four plays later, Godfrey drilled a 20-yard TD pass to Eddie Johnson for a 14-3 Navarro lead. Bowman was the special teams star, recovering another muffed kickoff in the second half to set up Navarro’s final touchdown.
Navarro kept Blinn’s explosive offensive in check much of the first half, but Blinn went on an 18-play, 51-yard drive that took up 8:16 of the second quarter to pull within 14-10 on Trey Porter’s 2-yard run. Navarro’s defense forced nine plays of 2 yards or less but was victimized by two penalties, including a pass interference play in the end zone that set up Porter’s scoring run.
Godfrey took to the air again late in the second quarter for a 20-yard scoring strike to James Washington, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-10 at the half.
Corsicana’s Cameron Washington contributed Navarro’s final score on an 8-yard TD run midway in the fourth quarter after Bowman’s second recovery. Washington had 38 yards on six carries.
Navarro’s winning total could have been much larger, had mistakes and penalties limited its opportunities.
Kick returner Tony Drake had his electric 93-yard punt return for a score nullified with 16 seconds left in the second period because of a clipping penalty.
Then on the third play of the fourth quarter, running back Tyler Middleton sprinted around the left side and weaved in and out of Blinn defenders for a 91-yard touchdown run. But Middleton pointed skyward at the Blinn 28 en route to the end zone and a flag was thrown. Middleton’s score was nixed and Navarro resumed possession at the Buc 43 after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Its drive died seven plays later on Patrick Sohrt’s missed 32-yard field goal into a stiff wind.
“I thought our guys played well at times, but some mental mistakes and 200 penalties kept us from breaking the game open,” said Navarro Coach Brian Mayper. “If we execute, our offense is unstoppable.”
Navarro compiled 430 yards total offense, led by running back Traylon Shead’s 142 yards on 19 carries. Shead also completed a 13-yard pass on perhaps the strangest play of the game.
Late in the third period, Shead attempted to sweep right but found a host of Buc defenders. He reversed his field but the road was just as clogged on the other side. As he neared the boundary, the left-handed Shead uncorked a pass out of desperation that found Johnson for 13 yards and a first down. Godfrey scored on the next play for a 28-10 lead.
Blinn was limited to 231 total yards and quarterback Garry Kimble was only 6 of 28 for 78 yards and an interception through the air.
The Bulldogs were particularly tough in the final 30 minutes, limiting the Bucs to 101 yards and not allowing the Blinn inside Navarro’s 35.
“Blinn is a scary team, but our defense played lights out today,” Mayper said. “We made some key adjustments at halftime and really shut them down. When we play like that on defense, we are an awfully difficult team to beat.”
Navarro 35, Blinn 10
Blinn 3 7 0 0 — 10
Navarro 14 7 7 7 — 35
B — Kurt Walker 59 FG
N — Jordan Jolly 67 pass from Stump Godfrey (Patrick Sohrt kick)
N — Eddie Johnson 20 pass from Godfrey (Sohrt kick)
B — Trey Porter 2 run (Walker kick)
N — James Washington 20 pass from Godfrey (Sohrt kick)
N — Godfrey 2 run (Sohrt kick)
N — Cameron Washington 8 run (Sohrt kick)
First Downs 15 15
Rush-yards 45-153 48-286
Passing yards 78 144
C-A-I 6-28-1 6-14-2
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-1
Punts-avg. 6-39 4-33
Penalties 10-79 12-91
Rushing — B: Garry Kimble 18-89, Klartel Claridy 11-15, Trey Porter 10-33, Bright Ashaka 1-10, Donavan Williams 5-6; N: Traylon Shead 19-142, Tyler Middleton 3-71, Tarlandus Mitchell 6-25, Stump Godfrey 10-15, Tony Drake 4-(-5), Cameron Washington 6-38 .
Passing — B: Kimble 6-28-1-78; N: Godfrey 5-13-2-131, Shead 1-1-0-13.
Receiving — B: Vasquez Haynes 2-22, Jeremy Johnson 1-17, Ashaka 2-21, Christopher Loving 1-18; N: Jordan Jolley 1-67, Eddie Johnson 2-33, James Washington 2-33, Middleton 2-31.