Yoe, Navasota aiming for state championship shot
The two area schools play back-to-back in their respective state finales Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, otherwise known as Jerry’s World.
Cameron (14- 0) bat t les Daingerfield (12-3) in the Class 2A, Division I finale Friday at Noon.
Navasota (15-0) follows at 4 p.m. when it takes on Gilmer (14-1) for the Class 3A, Division II crown.
Cameron began the season ranked No. 2 (behind defending champ Refugio who was knocked out two weeks ago), while Navasota ran the table at No. 1 in Class 3A.
No one knows these two teams better than Rockdale coach Jeff Miller. His Tigers fell to both this past season and finished second to Navasota in District 18-3A
“I’m not surprised at all that either one of them are playing for the state championship,” Miller said. “We knew Navasota was going to be one of the best 3A teams in the state.”
When Cameron steps on the Cowboy Stadium field Friday at high noon to tackle Daingerfield, it will mark a rematch from two years ago when Daingerfield nabbed a state championship from the Yoemen 33-27 with 26 seconds left on the clock on a long pass.
There are 18 seniors on the current roster who survived the heartbreak.
“That wasn’t the goal this year, to go back,” said Cameron coach Rick Rhoades. “ The goal was to win it, and we’re going to do everything we can to win it this time.”
Among those are Cameron’s running leader Keaton Denio, who has run for 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns behind senior All-State lineman Tyler Vrazel.
Junior quarterback Jason Kopriva has thrown for an impressive 3,049 yards and 37 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.
Kopriva has done a great job of spreading the ball around as six Yoemen receivers have caught at least 25 passes, led by junior Colton Shuffield with 47 catches for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Junior linebacker Somari Wright anchors the defense with an incredible 203 tackles.
Should Cameron emerge with a victory Friday, it would be Yoe’s second state title and first since 1981.
Should Navasota prevail Friday, it would represent the first crown for the Rattlers, who played in the finals in 1988, falling to Southlake Carroll.
Their opponent Gilmer, has captured titles in 2009 and 2004.
(Note: when Cameron won it all in 1981, they defeated Gilmer in the title game.)
While Navasota has produced an impressive run over the past decade as an offensive juggernaut, the difference maker for the Rattlers this season is their defense may be better than their offense.
In 14 games, Navasota has allowed just 127 points (nine points a game) after not surrendering a single point in four District 18-3A contests.
“That’s the difference,” agreed Miller. “ That’s the difference between good teams and great teams. How many great players you have at each position. They have that on defense.”
In their last two playoff wins, the Rattlers have allowed just one touchdown a game.
Navasota is anchored on defense by a pair of all-state linebacker performers: Jake Bauer (119 tackles, 7 sacks) and Jaylin Minor (166 tackles, 8 sacks).
The Rattlers lost a third allstate player Will Imhoff to a broken leg early in the season. Imhoff was the district defensive MVP in 2012.
He has been replaced by brother Coy (110 tackles).
“We are fortunate that not many guys have to go both ways this year,” said Navasota Coach Lee Fedora, “and that allows those guys to concentrate more on one side of the ball.
“They bring a lot of discipline, speed, strength, and physicality. They are always listening to their coaches and studying what there opponent is about to attack them with. They never look past any opponent—they only look at what can make them better as a unit. 11 guys flying around the football all the time.
Now about that offense.
Senior quarterback Kadarius Baker has put up crazy numbers, passing for 4,252 yards and 53 touchdowns.
He has two receivers, Austin Collins and Solomon McGinty, who both have over 80 catches, 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns each.
“I have talked to (Navasota Coach Lee) Fedora several times during the playoffs to let him know that we are some of their biggest fans and wish them the best of luck.”