3-Time Champion Bulldogs Take No. 5 Ranking to Heart of Texas Bowl

By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun

Navarro Coach Brian Mayper has watched the maturation of his first Bulldog team with fascination this year. There have been many ebbs and flows, some a lot wilder than he would have wanted.

But Saturday’s end result made all the ups and downs more than worth all the long days and worrisome nights.

Navarro rolled up season-highs of 535 yards rushing and 689 total yards in a dominating 62-24 win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Okla., in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship.

Navarro’s third straight postseason championship sends the Bulldogs to the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove on Dec. 1. Navarro, which surged to No. 5 in the NJCAA Poll released Monday morning, will be playing in the HOT Bowl for the second straight year. An opponent has yet to be determined.

If the Bulldogs (9-2) play anywhere close to the level they on their second trip to Oklahoma, woe to their opponent. Navarro committed a turnover on its second possession, but then exploded for 21 second-quarter points and then piled on 34 more points in the final 30 minutes.

“We truly dominated the game,” Mayper said. “(NEO) had not been in that position before this season. We got up big on them and they didn’t have an answer for us.”

That was especially the case in the Navarro ground attack. The Bulldogs posted a pair of 100-yard rushers in Traylon Shead (17-129-2) and Tyler Middleton (6-108-1) and three other gained more than 60 yards. Corsicana’s Cameron Washington came on late in the second half and gained 66 yards on only three carries.

“Kilgore tried the same kind of things defensively against us last week,” Mayper said. “It did slow us down last week (a season-low 143 yards), but we got locked in this week. When our linemen decide to play, they can dominate like we did against NEO (9-2). (Tackle) Carter Wall was one of them who stepped up and had a great game.”

Ditto can be said for quarterback Stump Godfrey, who played his second straight high-efficiency postseason game. The sophomore transfer attempted only 21 passes, but he completed 13 for 154 yards and four TDs. Godfrey completed TD passes of 11 and 12 yards to Eddie Johnson in the first half as Navarro jumped to a 28-10 at halftime. Godfrey came back for scoring tosses of 32 yards to Jordan Jolly and 3 yards to tight end Gerard Shillow within a three-minute span midway in the fourth quarter.

After struggling to complete more than 50 percent of his passes the first nine games of the season, Godfrey has been brilliant in the playoffs. Godfrey is 32 of 51 (62.3 percent) for 395 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception in Navarro’s two postseason games.

Oh, and he’s also rushed for 98 yards and two scores.

“He’s got an unbelievable competitive spirit,” Mayper said of his signal-caller. “We had some battles to start off the year and I almost benched him in the Kilgore game last week for some things he was saying. But he calmed down and played brilliantly later in that game. He came back this week against NEO and was even better.”

The quarterback on the other side of the ball, NEO’s Clayton Mitchem, the SWJCFC Most Valuable Player, had played extremely well for the first 10 games this season, especially in the semifinal win over Tyler when he accounted for four touchdowns.

However, Navarro’s defense clamped down on him in the title game. Mitchem completed only 33 percent of his passes (10 of 33) and was limited to 56 yards on 19 carries. Navarro also picked off a pair of Mitchem passes.

Mitchem accounted for a 34-yard TD pass in the third quarter and a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth period after Navarro had built a 31-point lead.

“We created havoc for (Mitchem) and it cased him a lot of trouble,” Mayper said. “(Defensive Coordinator Dustin Landry) put kids in the right position all day to account for (Mitchem).

“Mitchem got away a couple of times, but (linebackers) D.J. (Simon) and Steve (Orisakwe) eight contained him in the pocket or caught him scrambling after a short game.”

That was different from the first game between the two teams when NEO defeated Navarro, 26-24. But the Bulldogs learned, just as they have the last 10 weeks. The ups and downs became a smooth road by Week 11.

“A lot of kids have changed since the start of the season,” Mayper said. “They are a lot different mentally and spiritually than how they came to us when we started practice in August. That’s one of those things we hope for while’s we’re here.”

Mayper also hopes for championships and he a got a lot of all three this season.