Rattlers’ reload a success so far
It might seem reasonable that if District 18-3A teams are ever going to pose a seri- ous threat to the juggernaut that has been Navasota over the past decade, this might be the year to do it.
So far, the assemblage of new faces hasn’t seemed to bother the Rattlers, although they have slipped off their lofty perch a bit, having lost to a powerful Fairfield team in the fifth week of the season to end a 20-game winning streak and are currently ranked No. 10 in the state.
In a stable of college-level talent, the Rattlers lost two-time player of the year, quarterback Kadarius Baker, who threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in two years as starter.
Now, Coach Lee Fedora has taken it one step further and has placed a sophomore under center in Shelton Eppler.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Eppler is second to Rockdale’s Clayton Gibbs in passing with 1,631 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Navasota also had to replace Baker’s passing playmates Austin Collins and Solomon McGinty, who both had over 1,000 yards receiving.
Jerbrell Lipscomb and Tren’Davion Dickson have filled the bill.
Leading rusher Xavier Creeks (1,017 yards) was also lost to graduation, so in comes junior Derrion Randle who has scored 13 touchdowns.
In the past five years, Navasota sports a 25-2 district mark.
It was the Navasota defense that finally pushed the Rattlers over the top last season and five of the eight starters they have coming back are on that side of the ball.
Fireplug defensive tackle Jordan Wells (5-foot-9, 277 pounds) led the charges with 164 tackles and 15 sacks to earn All-State honors and is back for more.
The Rattler D did not give up a single point in district play while outscoring league opponents 191-0.
After opening district with a convincing 49-0 victory over Madisonville, the 6-1 Rattlers took the week off.
Friday’s matchup will pit the top two offensives in the district, while Navasota features the top defense in the league as well.
Since Rockdale has already clinched a playoff berth at 2-0, Friday’s game will go a long way in determining the district champion.
Navasota leads the series 7-5, but has taken seven straight since 1986, including a 43- 0 loss in 2012.
• After leading last week, Pearce Loth dropped down to second in the state in Class 3A receiving yards with 740, behind Bryce Reeves of Graham with 809 yards on 43 catches.
• Clayton Gibbs dipped to fourth from third last week with 1,848 yards behind leader Ben Davis of Graham with 2,146. Gibbs needs just 186 yards to break Ethan Brinkley’s school record of 2,037 set in 2011.
• Elijah Brooks scored two more touchdowns Friday, which gives him 27 for his career and places him in fourth place on the career list, tied with Larry Jackson (1987-89). The senior needs just four to tie his brother Daniel and eight to tie leader Blade Bassler’s 35 (1999-2000).
• With a minimum of three games left to be played, Brooks needs 80 yards to become just the third Tiger (along with Don Wesley and Ira White) to gain over 1,000 yards in two consecutive seasons. Brooks has 1,965 career yards (1.045 in 2012) and only seven Tigers have run for over 2,000 yards, including father Tony (2,145) and brother Daniel (2,378)
• Brooks is ranked 18th in Class 3A behind leader Ben Johnson of Lubbock Estacado who has 1,553 yards.
• Adolfo Chavira had his consecutive extra point streak stopped at 16 after he missed after the Tiger’s second score against Madisonville. The junior has converted 27 of his last 29 and 34-of-40 on the season.
• James Castilleja once again led the Tigers in tackles against Madisonville with 10 along with Derek Whitsell. Ladontice Coates is the leader on the season with 60, followed by James David with 56.
• Tyler Prazak added another sack to his total against Madisonville which gives him eight for the year. While there is no official Rockdale record in the category, Austin January recorded 12 in 2005, including seven in one game.