By MIKE MONTFORT (Photos By Keith Speer) —
Fourth-seeded Kilgore will make its third Heart Of Texas Bowl appearance in December after winning its first SWJCFC Championship since 2004.
Energized and fortified by a relentless defense, KC took advantage of four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two blocked field-goal attempts and converted everything into points Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
Coach J.J. Eckert’s Rangers (7-4) won the game, 42-28 — their fourth straight win and completed one of the most improbable runs to a conference crown in the 20-year history of the league.
“Down” after a 20-13 loss to Cisco at RE St. John Memorial Stadium was not to be confused with, or considered as “out” for the Rangers. Instead, their defense rolled up their sleeves and executed a very simple 1-2-3 plan.
That plan? Beating No. 1 Tyler in overtime, No. 2 Trinity Valley in overtime on the road, and No. 3 Navarro at a stadium where the Bulldogs were 44-5 since 2007. Among the outcomes? Five defensive scores, a total of 12 interceptions and four fumble recoveries, resulting in three wins….
….And didn’t they need a Navarro win over Blinn in the final regular-season game to get into the playoffs? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
The numbers from Saturday’s game are outrageously warped. For example, Kilgore:
- had only 8 first downs in a game in which it scored 42 points;
- had 3 of those first downs on scoring plays of 63, 21 and 37 yards;
- ran 32 fewer offensive plays than Navarro (54 / 86);
- totaled more yardage from 9 punts (315 yards) than offensive yards (304)
Frustration is a mild description for first-year coach Cody Crill, his staff and a Bulldog squad.
NC gained 478 yards on its 86 plays. Devlin Isadore was 21-37-336-2 passing. Del’Michael High caught 5-152-1, including a 78-yarder over Jerrell Sykes six minutes into the game to give the Bulldogs a lead. Josh Cleveland ran a season-high 36 times for 122 yards — his fourth consecutive game of 100-plus — and gave Navarro a 1,000-yard rusher for the fourth consecutive season.
Coordinator Scott Joseph’s defense was making plays. Kilgore had to punt nine times and five came after three-and-out series. Navarro’s defense also chimed in for its second interception return for score this season: a 48-yarder by linebacker Jake Blomstrom.
They worked hard and kept themselves in a winable ballgame, but couldn’t overcome big-play turnovers.
NJCAA individual interception leader Jerrell Sykes continued to be in the center of Kilgore’s defensive storm. Sykes picked off his 10th pass of the year and barreled through the middle to blunt two Patrick O’Brien field-goal attempts.
DeOndre Toler picked off two passes and returned one 38 yards for a fourth-period touchdown. Louis Wing and Mario McCain recovered fumbles that gave life to KC scoring drives.
Navarro appeared in its eighth SWJCFC Championship game in the last nine seasons, and was attempting to claim the host role for the fifth time in the 15-year history of the Heart Of Texas Bowl.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Kilgore 42, Navarro 28
Navarro 7 7 7 7 — 28
Kilgore 14 14 7 7 — 42
N — Del’Michael High 78 pass from Devlin Isadore (Patrick O’Brien kick), 9:42
K — Jarod Wood 63 pass from Josh Bolfing (Troy Duran kick), 3:23
K — Martinez Syria 1 run (Duran kick), :11
K — Syria 21 run (Duran kick), 13:50
K — Syria 37 run (Duran kick), 6:52
N — Jake Blomstrom 48 interception return (O’Brien kick), 3:33
N — Isadore 4 run (O’Brien kick), 13:15
K — Garrett Barton 9 pass from Jaylen Fails (Duran kick), 6:19
K — Deondre Toler 38 interception return (Duran kick), 8:27
N — Timothy Taylor 5 pass from Isadore (O’Brien kick), 5:31
YARDSTICK N K
First Downs 20 8
Rushes-Yards 49-142 45-164
Passing 21-37-4 6-9-1
Passing Yards 336 140
Punting 3-35 9-35
Fumbles 3-2 1-0
Penalties 5-55 11-68
RUSHING — Navarro: Josh Cleveland 36-122, Dominique Harris 1-6, Devlin Isadore 10-(-14), Maurice Gordon 2-28; Kilgore: Martinez Syria 16-103, Josh Bolfing 4-4, Damion Collins 12-42, Jaylen Failes 13-15.
PASSING — Navarro: Isadore 21-37-4-336; Kilgore: Bolfing 5-7-0-131, Fails 1-2-1-9.
RECEIVING — Navarro: Timothy Taylor 5-50, Del’Michael High 5-152, Calvin Jones 7-84, Cleveland 1-(-1), Harris 3-70.; Kilgore: Garrett Barton 3-26, Jarrod Wood 2-108, Collins 1-6.
BARKING: Post-Game Notes
After 10 games, the Bulldogs were seventh in points scored (450), ninth in scoring average (45), ninth in touchdowns scored (55), tied for second in field goals made (15), fifth in extra-point conversions (55), fourth in total offensive yards (5172), fourth in passing yardage (3281), seventh in yardage per game (517.2), 10th in first downs (216) , eighth in passing first downs (112). Navarro was third in penalties (105) and second in penalty yardage (1054).
POINT MADE – Navarro’s scored 478 points, which ranks only third in the SWJCFC this season. But the Bulldogs now stand fourth on their school single-season team record list, surpassing the 447 points amassed by the 2009 squad. Ahead of them? The three Brian Mayper-coached teams reset team scoring marks each season (521 in 2012, 523 in 2013, and 526 in 2014).
ISADOREABLE — Framing Navarro QB Devlin Isadore’s first three starts, Isadore was 88-147-1192-11-2, averaging 13.5 per pass, 397.3 yards per game, and completing passes at a 59.9 percent rate. The 1192 passing yards he totaled was the most by a Navarro quarterback in any three-game series since Adrian Nelson’s 1220 against Cisco, NEO and TVCC in 2011…..
SPRINT TO THE FINISH — Navarro had a 1000-yard rusher for the fourth straight year as sophomore RB Josh Cleveland’s 36-122-0 gave him career totals of 171-1065-12. Navarro’s leading rusher produced almost half of his vital statistics in the three games leading up to the championship game when he combined for 65-470-6. He rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last four games and scored three touchdowns in the wins over Blinn and Tyler.…The last time Navarro finished a season without a 1000-yard rusher was the 2011 season when Nick Bobeck’s Bulldogs went 10-2 and defeated NMMI in the Heart Of Texas Bowl. Demarcus Jackson led with 748, but it was Johnny Haynes (87-503-2) who gained 217 against NMMI in the bowl game….
CATCH ‘EM IF YOU CAN — Sophomore WRs Del’Michael High (67-1135-9) and Calvin Jones (58-929-8) enjoyed banner seasons that are breaking into Navarro single-season and career record lists. In single-season marks, High surpassed Kendrick Starling (59 in 1999) into second place in receptions behind Marquez Clark (98 in 2011). Also among single-season marks, Jones stands fourth in catches and seventh in yardage.
High and Jones, ranked seventh and eighth nationally in per-game yardage this season, climbed NC career marks. High (88-1391-10) finishes third in catches and ranks fifth behind Corsicana’s Daray Sims (2000-01) in yardage (1239)….Jones finishes 11th in career receptions (60) and 10th in yardage (977).
BULLDOGS ON DEFENSE – Entering the championship game, Navarro’s defensive unit ranked third nationally in tackles per game (96.3) and in sacks with 48, led by LB Ty Thomas’ 10. LB Jake Blomstrom ranked second in individual tackles (125), while fellow corps member JB Copeland ranked sixth (106). Blomstrom and Copeland become the first additions to the 100-tackle club since 2009 NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year Brad Graham (106), Donald Booker (161 in 2007) and Corsicana’s Ken Jones (136 in 2002) and Shane Tolleson (132 in 2000) – all linebackers.
–Notes by Mike Montfort