By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun
ATHENS — Navarro has spent much of the 2013 season shrugging off an inordinate amount injuries by playing mistake-free football on offense and shutting down teams on defense.
And then came the final three minutes of the SWJCFC championship, when a muffed punt and only the second interception in 264 pass attempts this season opened the door for Trinity Valley to break the Bulldogs’ stranglehold on the Southwest Junior College Football Conference crown.
Trinity Valley rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final 24 minutes, capped by a pair of touchdowns in the final 2:27, for a 56-45 win over Navarro to win the SWJCFC title on Saturday at Bruce Field.
Navarro (8-3) will receive a bowl bid on Tuesday, possibility from one of the two Texas bowls. Trinity Valley (9-2) won its eighth straight game and snapped Navarro’s three-year lock on the SWJCFC crown.
Navarro looked to be in control after Tim Wright’s 4-yard scoring run that gave the Bulldogs a 45-42 lead at the 5:18 mark, and then forcing Trinity Valley to punt on the ensuing possession.
With time dwindling under four minutes, usually reliable punt returner Mikechell Potts charged Dylan McLain’s low, line drive punt and watched the ball bounce off his hands, allowing Trent Momon to recover at the Navarro 21.
Three plays later, quarterback Ryan Polite made a perfect fake on the read option and dashed 22 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:27 remaining.
Navarro quarterback Josh Greer, making his first appearance in six weeks after breaking his collarbone, was intercepted by Tray Thornton on the second play of the ensuing possession. Two plays later, Marquel McNac drove in from the 11, capping the Cardinals’ comeback.
At times on Saturday, Greer performed brilliantly. But in the critical stretch of the fourth period, the transfer completed only 3 of his final 14 attempts for 19 yards and the Thornton pickoff.
Carson Earp, who started the last six games for the Bulldogs, including Saturday’s title game, completed a 78-yard touchdown pass to tie the game early in the first period.
Greer came on to fire a 35-yard touchdown to Markel Steward-Gillespie that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead just four minutes later.
Greer stayed on the remainder of the game at quarterback. After misfiring on four of his first six attempts, Greer went on an incredible run as he completed 15 of his next 18 passes for 216 yards, leading the Bulldogs to a 10-point lead at the half. Greer’s 26-yard scoring pass to Wright (26-174-2 rushing) gave Navarro a 38-21 lead at the 9:23 mark of the third period.
Trinity Valley would rally for 35 of the game’s final 42 points. Polite, a 3,000-yard passer, scored on runs of 6 and 21 yards and added a 41-yard scoring pass to Momon during the Cardinal rally.
Greer was 20 of 38 for 254 yards and Earp was 2 of 4 for 94 yards as Navarro passed for a season-high 348 yards and outgained Trinity Valley 547-473.
Polite was 23 of 38 for 253 yards and rushed for 87 yards and three scores.