The Orange Leader
Navasota proved why they are the No. 1 team in the Class 3A ranks Friday night.
However, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs did help the Rattlers out.
The Rattlers received four touchdowns from standout receiver Austin Collins and took advantage of five Mustang turnovers and numerous penalties as they went on to notch a decisive 38-7 victory in the Class 3A Region III Finals at Humble’s Turner Stadium.
Collins was a thorn in the Mustangs’ side all night long. He hauled in two touchdown receptions from quarterback Kadarius Baker, scored another one on the ground and brought back an interception return for another score.
“The Collins kid he ate us up but we also ate ourselves up with the turnovers and the penalties,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “You can’t do those sorts of things against a team like Navasota, they’re good enough as it is.”
The Mustangs (13-1) allowed a season-high 313 yards after giving up 132.8 yards a game throughout the season. The Rattlers (14-0) were just four points away from scoring what the Mustangs had just allowed all season - which was 42 points entering Friday’s contest.
Baker went over the 4,000-yard passing mark for the season after he completed 10-of-17 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He did throw two picks.
Collins hauled in five receptions for 88 yards and ran for 40, including a 37-yard TD run. He also brought a pick back 68 yards for a score.
The Rattlers had 172 yards on the ground. Tailback Xavier Creeks rumbled for 105 yards on 14 carries.
“Give them (Navasota) credit, they took advantage of all the things we did wrong,” said Thompson. “They also big-played us there in that first quarter. We gave up one big play all season before tonight and it was in Silsbee. They caught our defense in a couple bad spots and what more can you say, they just beat us.”
The Mustangs finished with 240 total yards.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Salter, who had just two interceptions on the season, threw three Friday night. He finished a great career in a Mustang uniform by going 11-for-20 for 83 yards. He also rushed for 60 yards on 18 totes. Receiver J’Marcus Rhodes hauled in five catches for 52 yards.
“Offensively, we moved the ball pretty well two or three times but then the turnover bug got us,” said Thompson. “Give credit to the Navasota defense, they are no slouch and we knew that coming in here.”
Cashing in on four Mustang turnovers, the Rattlers exploded for 28 unanswered points in the first half.
The Rattlers scored in a hurry on the first series of the game, going 67 yards in three plays.
Baker connected with Collins on a perfect 46-yard scoring strike down the left sidelines. Kicker Michel Martinez nailed the extra-point, making it 7-0 with 10:46 remaining in the first period.
After Rattler linebacker Dustin Savensky picked off a Salter pass at the Rattler 31 and returned it to the Mustang 33, WO-S defensive back J’Marcus Rhodes returned the favor when he picked off Baker at the Mustang 20 with 8:29 in the first.
With 6:27 left in the first period, Collins went 68 yards on a gallop for what looked to be a touchdown but it was called back due to a holding penalty.
With 5:02 still in the first, Mustang defensive back Quinton Tezeno intercepted a Baker toss at the Mustang 24.
Three plays later, Rattler defensive back Lamarquis Jefferson intercepted a Salter pass at the WO-S 33. Two plays later, Baker connected with receiver Tarrance Creeks on a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline, making it 14-0 with 2:35 in the first.
On the next series, Salter hit back Abear Simien on a 39-yard pass that got down to the Rattler 35. However, Navasota held firm, stopping Salter on a fourth down run at the Rattler 26.
On the next series, Rattler tailback Xavier Creeks broke loose on a 42-yard jaunt all the way to the Mustang 30. Four plays later Baker found Collins with a 10-yard touchdown dart in the right back of the end zone, pushing the Rattler lead to 21-0 with 10:06 left in the half.
The Mustangs tried to counter on their next series, moving from their own 27 all the way to the Rattler 17 in 10 plays but were turned back when Navasota lineman Jordan Wells pounced on a Salter fumble at the 14.
Collins made his presence felt again at the 4:02 mark when he picked off a Salter pass at the Rattler 32 and returned it 68 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-0.
The Rattlers had 171 yards in the first half while the Mustangs had 166.
Baker completed 8-of-13 passes for 126 yards. Collins had four catches for 79 yards while Creeks had 49 yards on seven carries.
Salter completed 9-of-16 passes for 82 yards and rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries. Rhodes had four catches for 22 yards.
On their first series of the second half, the Rattler marched 90 yards in five plays for a touchdown.
Creeks carried four times for 53 yards and Collins capped it off, scoring from 37 yards out, running the ball from the Wildcat formation, making it 35-0 with 7:47 in the third.
The Rattlers pushed their lead to 38-0 with 1:05 in the third when Martinez drilled a 44-yard field goal.
The Mustangs got on the board with 6:14 left in the game when Chase Rutledge scored on a three-yard quarterback keeper.
It was set up by a blocked punt as Mustang Jhayllien Monette rushed in to block it at the Navasota 17 and he then fell on it at the 3.
The Rattlers will take on either Bellville or Port Isabel in the state semifinals next week.
The loss was a tough one for the Mustangs, but there is plenty of things to hang their hats on.
They won their eighth district title in the past nine years. They also posted a school-record nine shutouts and only allowed 12 points in District 21-3A play.
“We’re going to miss our seniors dearly,” said Thompson. “A lot of our kids were playing in their 10th playoff game tonight and that’s something to be very proud of. Leaving here tonight, we need to remember the 13 great weeks we had this season before tonight. I’m super proud of each and every one of them and I love them. Good luck to Navasota, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if they went on and won the whole thing.”