Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

October 3, 2013

Navarro Football:The No. 8 Navarro Bulldogs meet No. 6 Tyler Saturday night

Corsicana — It is not easy to understand just what the Navarro Bulldogs are thinking these days.

Not even their coach knows what’s on the minds of his team after losing 35-7 last week to Trinity Valley, snapping a home-game conference winning streak that dated back to 2006.

The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 4-1 and from No. 1 to No. 9 in the NJCAA rankings.

The enthusiasm and focus in practices and preparation for Saturday’s game against No. 6 Tyler at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium has been the same as it was prior to facing off against a talented Trinity Valley ballclub, according to Navarro coach Brian Mayper.

“It’s a hard crew to get a read on,” he said. “I’ve never been around a team like this.

“We practiced fine last week and then we came out and did nothing in the game. It’s been the same this week in practice.”

Mayper hopes the weekend result will be different. But it won’t be easy. Tyler is even more explosive than Trinity Valley offensively and has proved to be opportunistic on defense en route to a 5-0 record and moving into the No. 6 NJCAA ranking.

Never was that more evident than last Thursday in Miami, Okla. Down early to Northeastern Oklahoma, the Apaches scored 35 unanswered points in the middle quarters to win convincingly, 63-42.

Running back Leroy Dobbins was the focus of Tyler’s offense, rushing for 185 yards and landing him the SWJCFC Offensive Player of the Week Award.

If Dobbins, who averages more than 130 yards rushing per game, isn’t burning the defense, the Apaches turn to quarterbacks Randy Price and Matt Davis.

A third-year sophomore, Price is dangerous on the ground (8.4 yards per carry) or through the air (10 TDs), though he’s been intercepted four times and is completing only 54 percent of his passes.

Davis is a transfer from Texas A&M and has come off the bench to account for seven touchdowns with accurate passing (62.5 percent) and deft running (6.7 yards an attempt).

“They throw and run the ball equally well this season,” Mayper said. “It seems like they try to run the ball a little bit more, especially the zone read. But they can also be effective passing the ball.”

Tyler’s defense, led by sophomore linebacker Kenny Iloka (55 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) hasn’t been as equally adept at stopping opponents. The Apaches have been yielding 371.8 yards per game, including 175 yards on the ground, good for fifth in the conference. Tyler has offset those numbers by forcing 14 turnovers and is tied with Navarro with plus-5 in turnovers-takeaways this season.

Navarro is hoping quarterback Alex Allen’s second career start is better than his first when he averaged only 4.8 yards in a 12-of-24 performance against Trinity Valley last week. Allen did have some success with the quarterback draw, but he was sacked eight times and found himself under an ever-collapsing pocket.

To ease the pressure on Allen, Navarro may turn to its running game to carry the team. It worked a year ago against Tyler when the Bulldogs rushed for 364 yards and put two runners over the 100-yard mark.

“If we eliminate the mistakes, we should have success,” Mayper said. “Our practices this week have been the same as last week. We won’t know until we get there about how we’re going to play.

“We’ve got to focus on ourselves and not (Tyler). We were fine last week and then played poorly on Saturday. We’ve been fine again this week. We’ll see how we’ll be Saturday night.”

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