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State-bound Navasota facing final test - BrazosSports: Football

State-bound Navasota facing final test

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Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:24 am, Fri Dec 21, 2012.

One more step.

That's all that remains for Navasota to complete a perfect season and win the school's first football state championship.

Granted, it's a huge step, one the Rattlers haven't been in position to take for 24 years. Even though Navasota has developed into one of the state's top Class 3A programs, the Rattlers haven't reached a state title game since 1988.

The top-ranked Rattlers (15-0) can make history when they face No. 10 Gilmer (14-1) in the Class 3A Division II championship game at 4 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

"Somebody said something early in the year about us having an elite program," Navasota coach Lee Fedora said. "To me, to be an elite program you've got to have a state championship. Here's our opportunity. Hopefully we'll take care of business and do what we've got to do."

Gilmer's Buckeyes have gotten it done twice, winning the 3A Division II championship 49-47 against Jasper in 2004 and taking the 3A Division I crown 43-26 over Abilene Wylie in 2009. Those teams were loaded with major college prospects -- six or seven each year -- while this season Gilmer has just one player committed to a Division I school.

Several underclassmen play key roles for the Buckeyes, most notably junior quarterback Tanner Barr, sophomore running back Kris Boyd and junior linebacker Josh Walker.

"We're probably ahead of schedule," Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor said. "We didn't know that we'd be here at all. Not that you ever know, but there are certain teams that you think have better chances than others.

"This team struggled the first seven games of the year. We've really played pretty good football since then. We've been healthy and we got kind of hot at the right time."

The championship game will match two of the hottest offenses in the state. Gilmer, coming off a 50-7 romp past Graham in the semifinal round, has averaged 48.2 points in five playoff games.

Navasota, led by the 3A offensive player of the year in quarterback Kadarius Baker, also has been nearly unstoppable on offense. Receivers Austin Collins and Solomon McGinty, both first-team all-state selections, have combined for an amazing 170 receptions for 3,365 yards and 45 touchdowns. However, the Rattlers' ability to provide a running game for balance is in question after leading rusher Xavier Creeks broke his leg in a car wreck early Thursday morning.

"Most people see the offenses and expect a high-scoring game, but with two great defenses it wouldn't surprise me if it was a low-scoring game that came down to a defensive stop," Fedora said. "All that matters is that you win by one point."

Some high school football observers expect a game similar to Gilmer's 49-47 shootout against Jasper in 2004, but Buckeye coach Traylor said he couldn't imagine scoring that many points against a Navasota defense that Traylor said doesn't get enough credit.

The Rattlers have allowed 64 points in five playoff games with a balanced defense led by junior lineman Jordan Wells, senior linebackers Dustin Savensky and Jaylyin Minor, along with Collins at safety. Creeks also played cornerback on defense.

Navasota will be tested by a balanced Gilmer offense that features Barr, who is in his first season as starting quarterback. Barr, who started at free safety last year when the Buckeyes had two senior quarterbacks, has passed for 2,873 yards and run for 849 while producing 30 touchdowns. Boyd leads Gilmer in rushing with 1,259 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"They still haven't played a defense like ours," said Savensky, who leads the team with 170 tackles. "I think we have a good chance if we play like we always play."

Fedora and his players talk often about playing what they call Navasota Rattler football. It is the Rattlers' way of focusing on how they play instead of who or where they play.

That approach will be tested with the state final being played in the spectacular home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. The Rattlers were scheduled to take in one of Thursday's state championship games to reduce the wow factor.

Collins, after his next-to-last practice on Navasota's artificial turf, said the Rattlers should be able to handle the venue, and the moment.

"When that whistle blows and they kick it off, that star [in the middle of Cowboys Stadium] doesn't mean anything," Collins said. "That star is just like the Navasota star we've got right here. Who's looking at the big screen when you're on the field? You should be reading the defense or the offense.

"If the distractions are going to get you, then you're not really there to play for a state championship."

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