Parker McNeil

Daily Sun File photo/Ron Farmer

Navarro QB Parker McNeil, who led the nation in passing in 2018 and was leading the NJCAA again this year, left the Kilgore game Saturday night in the third quarter with an upper body injury and is listed day-to-day.

Scott Parr's not complaining.

He's known for a while that his Navarro Bulldogs would face one of the toughest — if not the most difficult — schedule in the nation to start the season.

“We've known about the schedule since January,” said Parr, whose Bulldogs not only have to face two top 20 teams in the first two weeks of the season, but have to try to win on the road. They lost a heartbreaker 33-30 in the final minutes at No. 19 Georgia Military last week to open their season, and now have to travel to No. 6 Kilgore for their conference opener Saturday night. They finally come home next Saturday and face No. 11 Blinn.

“We've known about our three opening games and we prepared to put ourselves in position to win those games,” he said. “There were positives from last week. Our defense showed a lot of heart. We kept them out of the end zone in the first half (Navarro led 16-11 at halftime). I thought we got tired, but we still showed a lot of grit as a team.”

Three nationally ranked teams in the first three weeks of the season means there is no slowing down for the Bulldogs, who have the top passing game in the nation with quarterback Parker McNeil, who led the nation in passing a year ago and opened the 2019 campaign by completing 26-of-37 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns to lead the nation after the first week of play.

Alex Washington had four receptions for 136 yards and a TD, and Kylan Hererra caught seven passes for 130 yards and a TD to lead the Bulldogs.

But Parr wants a better overall effort this week.

The Bulldogs ended up with only 34 net yards rushing as negative plays hurt them in Georgia. Keaton Dudik led the running game, rushing for 32 yards on seven carries. And there were breakdowns on special teams, including giving up two points on a blocked extra point attempt.

“We want to run the football better, and you could argue that we gave the game away with our special teams last week, and we need to play better in the Red Zone,” said Parr, who is confident Navarro will improve in those areas this week.

That's what Parr will be looking for against a Kilgore team that had an easy time hammering Tyler 35-10 in its conference opener last week. Tyler didn't score until the game was all but over, putting up 10 meaningless points in the fourth quarter.

Kilgore threw for 330 yards with starting quarterback Jacob Frazier completing 18-of-24 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

 Omar Manning was his favorite target, and caught five passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

“They're playing with a lot of confidence, with a lot of swag if you want to call it that,” Parr said. “They have a lot of talented players. I think it's going to be a very good football game. We're prepared for that, and I think it has all the ingredients to be a really high level junior college football game.”

Navarro split two games with Kilgore last year, winning with a dramatic comeback in Corsicana and losing in the conference semifinals in Kilgore. The Rangers went on the next week to win the conference title.

Parr wants to improve every week, and knows it will take a huge effort to knock off Kilgore on the road.

“We've got to match their intensity,” he said. “We need to shut down their vertical passing game, and we need to be cleaner on our special teams and get better in the Red Zone this week.

“All we're trying to do is win the day every day,” he said. “Winning the first conference game on the road against a great program would put a good taste in our mouths.”

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