By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun
There is no panic coming from the Navarro College football offices this week. After losing their second game in a row, the Bulldogs have slid from the top spot in the NJCAA to No. 14, but no one is chucking in the season.
There were ample positives and plenty of quick fixes available to Navarro as it aims to run the table much as it did a year ago en route to a Heart of Texas Bowl victory over Georgia Military.
“I think we still have a shot at winning the conference championship,” Navarro coach Brian Mayper said. “It seems to be one of those years that anybody can beat anybody in this conference.
“We were one block and one catch away from beating the No. 4 team in the nation last week. We’re going to be OK. We’re going the fix some things and continue to get better.”
The opportunities were there last week. Navarro just could not convert. As a result, the Bulldogs are 4-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play heading into Saturday’s non-league game against Southeast Prep at Tiger Stadium.
Navarro started its third quarterback of the season against Tyler last week, committed zero turnovers, held the Apaches 33 points under their scoring norm, yet were unable to punch the ball in the end zone. Normally sure-handed receivers like Devin Lauderdale and Austin Collins dropped passes that would have gone for touchdowns and a late fourth-down pass to Markel Steward-Gillespie was just a couple of toenails out of bounds.
“Drops are part of the game,” Mayper said. “Ninety-nine out of 100 times, we make those catches. This just happened to be a game where that one out of 100 happened twice on us.
“We feel like we left up to 49 points on the board. But you’ve got to give Tyler credit because they made the stops when they had to in the game.”
With starter Josh Greer out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, Navarro went with backup Alex Allen in a 35-7 loss to Trinity Valley to very mixed results that included eight sacks and only 59 yards passing.
So Mayper went with true freshman Carson Earp, a strapping 6-foot-4, 210-pounder from Waco Robinson. Earp was often impressive against Tyler, completing 17 of 38 passes for 199 yards and rushed for 36 yards on seven carries. Tyler challenged him with mixed coverage and multiple blitz packages, but the heady frosh got better as the game went on, Mayper said.
“He did a super job,” Mayper said. “He got in there and did everything we asked of him. He just had guys who normally sure-handed drop passes.
“What people don’t realize is that he is one of the best athletes on the team. I thought tons of Division II and FCS colleges missed on him. He’s got a great throwing motion and runs faster than people think. As a freshman in this conference, I think he’s one of the best there is.”
Earp played behind a patchwork offensive line that features only one player — tackle Carter Wall — who played extensively last season. Wall missed the previous two games, but played valiantly against the Apaches with the broken bone in his foot.
“(Guard) C.J. Greene has been out. (Guard/center) Jarvis Adams has been out. (Tackle) Tim Hines may miss the rest of the season with an injury. With the exception of Carter, we’ve got all new guys up front, and Carter did a super job against Tyler playing with a broken foot,” Mayper said. “Even with all that, we still had a chance to beat The No. 4 team in the nation.”
You can thank the Navarro defense once again for keeping the Bulldogs in the game. Navarro held the potent Tyler offense to only 16 first downs and 361 yards offense, numbers well below season averages. Tyler, which has topped the 49-point mark four times this season, was limited to 17 points, including only a field goal in the second half.
“Our defense did a great job once again,” Mayper said. “We’ve got to play two halves, but that goes for both sides of the ball.
“There was a lot to be encouraged about even though we lost. Our freshman quarterback played pretty well, that offensive line kept battling despite all of the injuries and new people in the game, and our defense held Tyler in check much of the game. Now we’re going to put those positives in motion and strive to get on a winning streak. It’s one week at a time.”