Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

November 14, 2011

Navarro football: Bulldogs will take No. 6 ranking into bowl game

Corsicana — When Navarro College’s defense heard about the highlight film Tyler was making about its running domination of Blinn in the conference semifinals, it was incredulous but intrigued.

Apache Coach Danny Palmer told the Tyler media last week there would be a highlight film made of Tyler’s 62-carry, 354-yard ground assault that resulted in an overtime win over the Bucs. It was to be strictly educational for future Apache linemen.

But it was the Bulldog defense that did the schooling on Sunday in the SWJCFC title game, limiting the Apaches to a scant 105 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per attempt in a 33-29 win.

The victory gives the No. 6-ranked Bulldogs a 9-2 record and earns them a spot in the Heart of Texas Bowl on Dec. 3. Official bowl bids will be extended on Tuesday.

“Our coaches told us all week about the 350 they put on Blinn and they were making a highlight film of that game,” said sophomore linebacker Austin Moss. “We knew we were going to have to step up to the challenge on defense because they had been playing so well. And then they even had that highlight film . . . It was a challenge we were ready to take on.”

When Navarro’s defense wasn’t stuffing Tyler’s vaunted ground game, the offense was producing a record-setting day and a pair of season-defining fourth-period drives.

Trailing 21-19 entering the fourth quarter, Navarro went on a pair of long touchdowndrives and then withstood a stubborn Tyler team to earn their second straight conference crown.

Sophomore receiver Marquez Clark caught 10 passes for 122 yards against Tyler, giving him 1,450 yards for the season, a new NJCAA record for single season receiving yards.

“I had no intention of breaking records when this season started,” the humble Clark said. “But as the year went along and we got rolling offensively, I knew there was a chance. I’m just blessed I have a great coach and great quarterback to help me get there.”

Navarro quarterback Adrian Nelson hammered Tyler in the second half, particularly on the two game-clinching drives. Nelson was 14 of 18 in the final two periodswith a touchdown pass of 12 yards to Eddie Johnson to cap an 11-play, 90-yard drive with 13:43 to go in the game. Nelson strung together 8 of 9 passes and added a 17-yard option keep to put the Bulldogs on top 26-24.On Navarro’s next drive, Nelson found Clark for 23 yards, snapping the NJCAA record and pushing the Bulldogs into Tyler territory. Demarcus Jackson sprinted 33 yards through the middle of Tyler’s defense on the next play to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 33-21.

Navarro made an adjustment to Tyler’s defense that the Apaches never countered. With a safety hovering over the slot receiver, Navarro ran a bubble pass seven times on the two drives for 63 yards. Receiver Robert Primes had all five of his catches on those two drives for 48 yards.

“It was a option between a run play or the bubble and (Nelson) read it correctly every single time,” said Navarro Coach Nick Bobeck. “Kids have a tendency to get bored when you run the same play over and over again, but our kids didn’t and they executed it perfectly.”

Tyler rallied to score after Navarro’s second fourth-quarter touchdown as quarterback Tyrik Rollison hooked up with tight end Dmarjai Devine from 3 yards and then converted the two-point conversion, closing the Bulldog lead to four with 6:08 remaining.

Navarro ended the Apaches’ final bid with 2:22 left when Malcolm Robinson intercepted his league-leading fourth pass at the Navarro 16.

“I think it is a (Vince) Lombardi saying that the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary,” said Navarro Coach Nick Bobeck, who is 39-5 in four seasons. “Our success today goes with the hard work our kids have put in all season. They were put in some adverse situations and because we lost some (players) and then (coaches) put them in even more adverse situations to strengthen their resolve. They never rolled over. They only wanted to win. Today showed that all that adversity and hard work translates into winning.”

Navarro missed opportunities and had key mistakes, leading to a 21-19 Tyler advantage at halftime.

The game swung in Tyler’s favor late in the second quarter after a key stop and then a fumble at the Apache 1.

Leading 12-7, Navarro stopped a Tyler drive at the 1 when Joey Searcy and Antonio Wright stood up Rollison at the 1 on fourth down. But it didn’t take long for the momentum to switch again when Nelson fumbled the snap and lineman Rodney Clovis pounced on the ball at the Bulldog 1. Two plays later, Chason White blasted over for the touchdown, giving Tyler a 14-12 lead with 2:29 remaining in the half.

After a 51-yard kickoff return by Clark, the Bulldogs quickly moved downfield for a go-ahead score. Nelson, who was 13 of 23 for 158 yards in the first half, drilled Clark for 15 yards to reach the 24 and then caught Clark on a deep post from there for a touchdown at the :43 mark.

Navarro could have taken a five-point lead into the break, but a 33-yard kickoff return Jalen Claiborne and a personal foul penalty on Johnny Haynes gave Tyler a first down at the Navarro 42 with 37 seconds remaining. After two short completions, Rollison lifted a perfectly placed flag route to Tracy Smith for 32 yards to the Tiger 1. Rollison found a wide-open Rodney Hall on a bootleg for a touchdown, giving Tyler a 21-19 lead at the break.

Navarro wasted two first-quarter opportunities, settling for field goals of 29 and 33 yards from Trevor Pinkston. Saddled with red zone problems all season, the Bulldogs drove to the Tyler 12 on its opening drive before its effort stalled and Pinkston was needed for a field goal in his 11th straight game.

Navarro built its lead on its next possession when Haynes took a handoff up the middle, made a cut that caused two defenders to stumble and outraced the rest of the defense for a 33-yard touchdown. Holder Bradley Smith bobbled the snap on the extra point and was dragged down well short of the goal line, giving the Bulldogs a 9-0 lead.

Navarro made it 12-0 with four seconds left in the period when it drove from its 28 to the Tyler 16 and then had to settle for Pinkston’s second field goal.

Tyler had the stiff Sunday afternoon wind in the second quarter and made good use of it on its first play. Quarterback Randy Price ran a play action pass and found Devine without any defender with 15 yards of him for a 64-yard touchdown pass.

“When you are the conference champion, everyone gives you their A game,” Nelson said. “We had a tough year off the field, but we came to practice each week and pushed each other. We never gave up on each other, never doubted one another. We won the conference championship again because we believe in each other.”

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