Navarro clinched a berth in its 9th consecutive Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoff as it defeated the Blinn Buccaneers 48-14 here Sunday at Tiger Stadium.
First-year coach Cody Crill’s Bulldogs (5-3/4-2) will advance as the No. 3 seed and will travel Saturday, Oct. 31, to Tyler to play the second-seeded Apaches at 7:30 pm at Trinity Mother Frances-Rose Stadium.
The other Highway 31 semifinal game will pair fourth-seeded Kilgore against top-seeded Trinity Valley in a 3 pm Saturday game at Bruce Field in Athens.
Winners Saturday will meet for the SWJCFC Championship at the home of the higher surviving seed.
Sunday, the Bulldogs made an unorthodox coin-flip circle decision, but it didn’t hurt them. Navarro won the toss and deferred to the second half. It also chose to kick off from the south end of Tiger Stadium into a brisk northerly wind.
Patrick O’Brien’s high kick was pushed back by the wind and bounced free among four Buccaneer special teams members. Freshman linebacker David Orr pounced on the football at the BC 40.
From there, it took Navarro seven plays and 1:25 to draw first blood with an 18-yard scoring run by sophomore Josh Cleveland. Cleveland rushed for 180 yards and also scored on runs of 44 and 64 yards to spark Navarro’s fourth straight win over the Buccaneers in the series.
Blinn tied it at 7 with 8:55 left in the first period with a countering, nine-play, 65-yard drive. Doug Johnson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Robert Mitchell.
From there, the Bulldogs blitzed Blinn with 24 unanswered points and a 31-7 led with 7:25 left before halftime.
Jake Blomstom’s fumble recovery, plus two errors in the wind-hampered punting game contributed to short fields for NC scores.
Blomstrom’s recovery — one of two by Navarro’s defense on the afternoon — set up O’Brien’s 37-yard field goal. O’Brien’s field goal was his 13th of the season and moved him past Juventino Sanchez into second place among single-season field-goal kickers.
Mike Malone punted 19 yards to the BC 44 and that set up Cleveland’s 44-yard sprint to the end zone. One series later, Malone mishandled the snap and was tackled at the Buccaneer 30 after his indecisiveness to punt.
Three plays after taking over downs, Navarro quarterback Devlin Isadore hit Calvin Jones with a 28-yard scoring pass over the middle.
In the second half, Isadore threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Tim Taylor to wrap up a 7-play, 72-yard scoring drive of 2:07.
A Jesse Brown recovery of Blinn’s attempted lateral on a third-and-five play spoiled a Buccaneer drive and gave impetus to another Navarro touchdown. A penalty-aided, 8 play, 86-yard drive ended with Cleveland’s 64-yard bolt with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
Navarro 48, Blinn 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Navarro 14 17 14 3 — 48
Blinn 7 7 0 0 — 14
N — Josh Cleveland 18 run (Patrick O’Brien kick), 13:35
B — Doug Johnson 25 pass from Robert Mitchell (Eric Piccione kick), 8:55
N — Del’Michael High 3 pass from Devlin Isadore (O’Brien kick), 1:22
N — O’Brien 37 FG, 11:14
N — Cleveland 44 run (O’Brien), 10:32
N — Calvin Jones 28 pass from Isadore (O’Brien kick), 7:25
B — Garrison Mitchell 17 pass from Robert Mitchell (Piccione kick), :38
N — Timothy Taylor 12 pass from Isadore (O’Brien kick), 9:23
N — Cleveland 64 run (O’Brien kick), 3:29
N — O’Brien 22 FG, 14:52
YARDSTICK N B
First Downs 19 14
Rushes-Yards 40-235 34-1
Passing 16-35-1 20-46-0
Passing Yards 193 284
Punting 6-34 5-45
Fumbles 1-0 4-2
Penalties 5-53 6-60
RUSHING — Navarro: Josh Cleveland 16-180, Marcus Anderson 5-10, Maurice Gordon 18-41, Kenneth Arthur 1-4. Blinn: Thomas Hutchins 4-15, Robert Mitchell 13-13, Brandon Jackson 8-18, Chris Hutchins 2-7, Mike Malone 1-(-10), Caleb Hill 5-(-33), Team 1-(-4).
PASSING — Navarro: Devlin Isadore 15-33-1-164, Arthur 1-2-0-29. Blinn: Robert Mitchell 17-33-0-229, Hill 3-12-0-55, Garrison Mitchell 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Navarro: Calvin Jones 6-85, Del’Michael High 4-36, Timothy Taylor 3-43, Cleveland 2-6, Warren Flye 1-29. Blinn: Doug Johnson 3-55, Dillon Birden 1-(-3), Taylor Givens 1-11, Garrison Mitchell 7-110, James Homan 7-104, William Howard 1-5.