By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun
HUTCHINSON, Ks. — A year after his team played arguably its best game of the 2012 season, Brian Mayper hopes the No. 3-ranked Navarro Bulldogs can go on the road and equal that effort against Hutchinson, Kan. CC on Saturday.
While the Bulldogs were whipping Arkansas Baptist 76-26 in their opener, No. 6 Hutchinson crushed Coffeyville, 44-14.
That sets up the marquee game of the SWJCFC-Jayhawk Conference Showdown between two of the most explosive offenses in the country.
Navarro struggled in its season opener at Arkansas Baptist last year, only to roll up more than 625 yards offense in a 54-34 victory over the Blue Dragons.
After his team recorded 848 total yards in last week’s win over Arkansas Baptist, you’d think Mayper would have been pleased. But then he looked at the film and saw a lot of points left on the field.
“I hope we can do what we did last year,” Mayper said. “We played poorly against Arkansas Baptist and played what I think was our best game of the year against Hutchinson. We’re going to need that kind of effort on Saturday because Hutchinson may be the best team we’ll face all year talent-wise.
“We left probably 40 points on the board last week against Arkansas Baptist because of poor execution. We were brutally honest with the kids while watching the video. If we had played as well has we were capable of playing, it could have gotten really, really ugly, like national record ugly.”
National scoring records definitely won’t be in Navarro’s future this week thanks to a Hutchinson defense that forced five turnovers, including three interceptions by West Virginia-committed cornerback Jaylon Myers, in its opener. Flanking Myers in the secondary is Georgia commit Shattle Fenteng and Jeremiah Ledbetter (6-3, 272) buoys the defensive line. Ledbetter had a sack and a tackle for loss against Coffeyville.
Linebacker Zack Weekly and defensive lineman Marqualus Lewis combined for 14 tackles, and 4.5 tackles for loss as the Blue Dragons registered 62 yards in losses.
“They’ve got some big boys up front like they did last year,” Mayper said. “They created a lot of pressure jumping in and out of the three- and four-man fronts, and those two inside backers make plays all over the field.”
Navarro’s defense will have to shake some lapses that allowed Arkansas Baptist to score easy touchdowns last week.
Hutchinson has ample punch from its backfield in Auburn transfer Mike Blakely at running back and sophomore Luke Barnes, who passed for 250 yards and two scores against Navarro last season. Blakely opened his sophomore campaign by rushing for 73 yards and a score on only eight carries and catching seven balls out of the backfield. Barnes completed 28 of 46 passes for 228 yards and two TDs against Coffeyville.
“Defensively, our effort was bad at times last week and we should not have allowed any touchdowns,” Mayper said. “We cannot do that again this week.
“We had a some great days from (rush end) Chip Jones (nine tackles, eight solo) and (defensive end) John Williams (two sacks, two quarterback hurries).
“We’ve got the ability on that side of the ball to be very good, but everyone has to give a maximum effort on every play. When we don’t do that, (offensively explosive) teams like Hutchinson are going to give us a lot of difficulty.”
Navarro at Hutchinson Kan.
7 p.m. Saturday
At Gowans Stadium
Records: 3rd-ranked Navarro (1-0) and 6th-ranked Hutchinson, Kan. (1-0)
Recent History: Navarro won the only meeting between the two teams, a 54-34 triumph in Corsicana last year.
Key Players: Navarro: OL Carter Wall, QB Josh Greer, RB Tim Wright, RB Cameron Washington, LB Dominique Kelly, WR Markel Steward-Gillespie, OL Tim Hines, DE Desmond Owino, DL Kerry Holiday, DL John Williams, CB Sherman Gilbert, S Aaron Shaw, S Alex Miller, CB KeUntis Thompson, LB Chrishard Buhl, WR Devin Lauderdale, WR Austin Collins. Hutchinson: QB Luke Barnes, RB Mike Blakely, RB Chase Abbington, WR Chris Murray, WR Jabril Soloman, DB Jaylon Myers, K Ryan Weese, LB Brock Long, LB Zack weekly, DL Marqualius Lewis, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter, DL Marquis Montgomery, DB Christian Goodlett, DB Jaylon Myers.
Game Notes: Hutchinson will be dangerous on its homefield, especially with Auburn transfer RB Blakely taking the pressure off QB Barnes. Blakely accounted for 175 all-purpose yards in Hutch’s 44-14 win over Coffeyville. A record-setting freshman last season, Barnes completed 61 percent of his passes against Coffeyville and will often throw to Blakely out of the backfield in addition to looking for Soloman down the field . . . Hutchinson can be scary in the return game, especially with Blakely and Murray, the latter stepping off a 78-yard punt return for a score in Week 1. Murray also averaged 33 yards on two kickoff returns . . . West Virginia commit Jaylon Myers intercepted 3 passes vs. Coffeyville. Fellow cornerback Shattle Fenteng is a Georgia commit . . . Navarro got a good push against Arkansas Baptist, registering 5 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries and 14 tackles for loss. But things could get even better this week as DLs Michael Starts and Marquise Anderson return from injury. The former Big 12 players should provide the necessary quality rotation depth that could keep things interesting in the pocket for Barnes . . . Corsicana sophomore LB Kelly led Navarro with 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks in his first game as a starter last week.
– Rob Ludwig