TYLER — The Navarro Bulldogs rallied from a 24-point deficit and outscored TJC 37-2 in the final 31 minutes to hand the No. 2 ranked Apaches their first loss of the year.
Navarro’s 37-26 come-from-behind victory at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium re-opened the Southwest Junior College Football Conference race and the battle for four post-season playoff positions during the final three weeks of the regular season.
NC pulled its season record to 3-3 with its first SWJCFC victory (1-3), heading into the Bulldogs’ final regular-season home game next Saturday against the Kilgore Rangers. The Apaches, which fell to 5-1 and 3-1, next will play fourth-ranked Trinity Valley at Bruce Field in Athens on Saturday.
Navarro struggled out of the gates Saturday and trailed 24-0 after being frustrated on its first seven possessions with four three-and-out series and another that ended with a lost fumble.
Things began to unravel for TJC when it had some sideline clock management issues combine with three three-and-out series inside the final 4:15 of the half.
The Apaches seemed to dominate play until 0:57 remained in the first half when Navarro’s Jeffrey McCutcheon blocked a punt and Elliot Albert recovered in the end zone. Benigno Heredia’s conversion brought the Bulldogs within 24-7.
Then, TJC got the ball at its 17-yard line and tried two passes that were incomplete. Shannon Vaughns ran the ball for 7 yards setting up a fourth-and-3. However, the TJC sideline called a timeout with 0:39 left. That gave Navarro another opportunity.
The Bulldogs scored with 0:02 on the clock as Harry Woodbery hit Kaylon Geiger for a 28-yard TD pass, stunning the TJC crowd.
To compound the last-minute craziness, there was a bad snap on the conversion attempt. TJC’s Natarion Dickey picked up the ball at the 9 and took it 91 yards for two points, giving TJC a 26-13 lead at the half.
In the second half, Navarro outscored TJC 24-0. Including the first half’s final 4:15 with the second half, TJC had 7 three-and-out series and lost a fumble to end another series as Navarro began establish control. The Bulldogs’ defense held TJC to just 125 total yards in the second half – 35 rushing and 90 passing, while Navarro gained 323 yards (154 rushing, 169 passing).
TJC still led 26-20 in the fourth quarter and it appeared to have some good luck when Navarro’s leading rusher, DeAndre Cook, fumbled the ball at the TJC 30. An Apache player leaped to recover, but the ball bounced up to NC wide receiver BJ Chambers who took it the remaining 25 yards into the end zone. After Heredia’s kick, Navarro led for the first time, 27-26.
Vaughns led TJC with 94 yards rushing, while quarterback Brennen Wooten threw for 218.
Jamal Bell had 11 catches for 133 yards with two touchdown receptions for the Apaches.
Cook led NC with 22 carries for 118 yards and a TD, and sophomore Mori Evans added 102 on nine carries to give Navarro its first tandem 100-yard rushing backfield since the Kilgore game last season when Maurice Gordon (20-188-3) and Xavier Turner (15-137-0) achieved it in a 52-45 win at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
Sophomore cornerback Benjie Franklin recovered a fumble for the Bulldogs with David Brazil and Trevor Denbow picking off Wooten passes.
NC’s 24-point comeback Saturday is exceeded only by a rally from 31 points down (34-3, 9:18, 2Q) here against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M to win the Oct. 10, 2015 homecoming game, 46-41.
Navarro’s matchup with Kilgore is set for a 3 pm kickoff at Tiger Stadium.
NOTES: Former NC linebacker Tavares Thomas not only was named a captain Saturday for Middle Tennessee State’s homecoming game against Florida International, but he became a surprise hero. Thomas became the Blue Raiders’ Wildcat quarterback, rushed six times for 20 yards, and scored three touchdowns as MTSU won, 37-17…..Bowling Green State’s Josh Cleveland became part of a tandem 100-yard rushing backfield Saturday and also reached the 1,000-yard career rushing level in the Falcons’ win over Miami….Tarleton wide receiver Del’Michael High caught 9-121-1 and Jacob Kaspar caught a 13-yard pass, but Tarleton dropped a 38-25 decision at Western New Mexico….Former Navarro head football coach Ray Woodard, a member of the Kilgore College Hall of Fame, provided color commentary Saturday during Kilgore’s game with NMMI on Hall of Fame Weekend….Former Navarro linebacker Jayd Kirby, now at Kansas State, shared team-tackle leadership Saturday with 11, but the Wildcats dropped a 40-34 game to Texas in double-overtime.
Navarro 37, No. 2 Tyler 26
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Navarro 0 13 7 17 – 37
Tyler 14 12 0 0 – 26
TJC – Shannon Vaughns 5 run (Tyler Dunlop kick), 12:09
TJC – Jamal Bell 9 pass from Brennen Wooten (Dunlop kick), 7:35
TJC – FG Dunlop 32, 13:43
TJC – Bell 36 pass from Wooten (Dunlop kick), 5:31
NC – Elliot Albert recovered blocked punt in end zone (Benigno Heredia kick), :57
NC – Kaylon Geiger 28 pass from Harry Woodbery (try failed), :02
TJC – Nation Dickey return of extra point try, :02
NC – DeAndre Cook 1 run (Heredia kick), 6:33
NC – BJ Chambers 25 fumble return (Heredia kick), 11:46
NC – Mori Evans 10 run (Heredia kick), 7:03
NC – FG Heredia 21, :54
ATT. – 3,000.
YARDSTICK NC TJC
First Downs 18 22
Rush-Yards 35-243 38-162
Passing Yards 290 233
C-A-I 22-41-1 26-51-2
Punts-Ave 8-39.2 9-45.1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 11-109 14-114
Rushing – Navarro, Cook 22-118, Evans 9-102, Chambers 1-25, Woodbery 1-10, Lister 1-5, Ponder 2-(-17), Lumpkin 1-0. TJC, Vaughns 16-94, Russell 10-53, Smith 9-32, High 1-8, Wooten 2-(-25).
Passing – Navarro, Woodbery 17-25-0 178 yards; Ponder 5-16-1 112 yards. TJC, Wooten 26-51-2 233.
Receiving – Navarro, Mims 6-67, Geiger 4-103, Townsend 4-29, Reyna 2-42, Lister 2-10, Cook 2-4, Edwards 1-20, Williams 1-15, TJC, Bell 11-133, Ward 5-39, Williams 3-26, High 3-1, Wiley 2-1, Smith 1-25, Russell 1-10.
SWJCFC SATURDAY SCORES
Results Saturday, October 7
Navarro 37, Tyler 26
Kilgore 17, NMMI 15
NEO 42, Cisco 9
Blinn 56, Arkansas Baptist 33
Games Saturday, October 14
Kilgore at Navarro, 3 pm
Tyler at TVCC, 3 pm
Blinn at NMMI, 3 pm
NEO at Coffeyville, 6 pm
Arkansas Baptist at Cisco, 7 pm