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Austin Collins + Suffocating Defense Ignite Navasota’s State-Championship Win Over Gilmer

Gilmer’s Tanner Barr is brought down by Navasota’s Anthony Small during the Class 3A Division II state championship game on Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

ARLINGTON — District 16-3A was widely regarded as the best 3A district in the state all season, but the best from the “District of Doom” was no match for the Navasota Rattlers.

Led by Austin Collins’ three-touchdown performance and a virtuoso defensive performance, Navasota rolled past Gilmer 39-3 on Friday at Cowboys Stadium to capture the Class 3A Division II state championship.

Navasota (16-0) dominated from start to finish, outgaining GIlmer (14-2), 405-162.

Navasota’s Ka’Darius Baker scores on a 2-yard run during the second quarter of the Rattlers’ 39-3 win over Gilmer on Friday in Arlington. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

“Our goal every year is to win a state championship and that’s what we sign up to do every year,” said Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor. “We tell everybody that, we get made fun of but that’s what we try to do. We’ve got two goals in Gilmer: win a state championship and try to be the finest young men we can be. We fall short of both of those goals at times, but we’re going to get up the next day and try again. That’s what you do in life.”

Collins, who was voted the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player, rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and had three catches for 64 yards and two more TDs for the Rattlers.

But Navasota’s defense was the story of the night. The Rattlers forced three turnovers, piled up 13 tackles for loss and four sacks, while holding Gilmer to its lowest single-game point total since being shut out by Pleasant Grove in the first round of the 2001 playoffs.

“They play a lot of two-deep zone behind them, which means it’s heavy coverage back there in the back,” Traylor said. “So if you can protect you think you can get down in there somewhere, but we couldn’t because we couldn’t protect.”

Navasota’s Solomon McGinty leans in to kiss the state championship trophy after the Rattlers’ win over Gilmer on Friday in Arlington. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Rattlers junior defensive tackle Jordan Wells was named the Defensive MVP with 10 tackles (six for loss), three quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. Jake Bauer, Jaylyin Minor, Anthony Small and Jordan Birdwell each recorded a sack.

“It is hard to be Jaylyin Minor and Jordan Wells’ friend,” Collins said. “They’re probably the two meanest people I’ve ever met in my life. … It’s hard getting out of Jaylyin and J.D.’s hands. They’re just so strong and physical and reckless. It pays off, though. I’m glad I’m not on the opposite team.”

Navasota quarterback Ka’Darius Baker, the Associated Press’ Class 3A Offensive Player of the Year, capped his phenomenal senior season by completing 10 of 15 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He added a score on the ground as well.

Collins and the duo of Derrion Randle and Howard Horn picked up the slack for starting running back Xavier Creeks, who suffered a broken leg after a Thursday-morning car accident. Randle and Horn combined for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

Gilmer trailed 26-3 at halftime, and recovered an onside kick at the Navasota 45 to begin the third quarter. The Buckeyes converted on three fourth downs and faced another at the Rattlers’ 2-yard line.

Navasota’s Howard Horn slips away from Gilmer’s Xavier Fluellen during the 3A D-II state final on Friday in Arlington. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Junior quarterback Tanner Barr took the snap and as he was reaching for the end zone, the ball was jarred loose and knocked out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. Gilmer’s 16-play, 45-yard drive chewed up more than half the quarter and resulted in no points.

“Tanner’s the reason we got down there,” Traylor said. “He avoided multiple sacks with fourth-down plays. He was trying to make a play like he always does.”

Gilmer’s defense responded by knocking Baker from the game right before a third-and-12 play from the Rattlers’ 18. Collins replaced Baker, took the snap and burst up the middle 82 yards for the back-breaking touchdown to give Navasota a 33-3 lead.

“We had a shot there when (Baker) got knocked out,” Traylor said. “(Collins) went in there and everybody knew he was going to run the quarterback counter. We knew it and we didn’t make a play, and that play to me that was a really big turning point.”

Barr was harassed all night, completing just 5 of 23 attempts for 68 yards and an interception. The Buckeyes came into Friday’s game averaging more than 45 points and 450 yards in the playoffs, but were completely taken out of their rhythm by Navasota’s defense.

“They are by far the best front seven we’ve played all year,” Barr said. “(Wells and Minor), they’re legit.”

Both teams’ offenses were shaky at the outset. The first two drives for each team picked up a combined 23 yards.

GIlmer’s offense was the first to get on track. Barr had completions of 18 and 15 yards to Jaidon Parrish before hitting running back Kris Boyd for 21 on a screen pass down to the Navasota 13. The drive stalled and Gilmer was forced to settle for a 3-0 lead on Pablin Olivares’ 29-yard field goal.

“Jaidon Parrish and (Boyd) made some really good catches (on our scoring drive),” Barr said. “After that, we didn’t execute our plays and the pressure got to us. We still tried to fight the best we could.”

The lead lasted less than two minutes.

Baker connected with Collins on a screen pass on second-and-11, and Collins raced past the Gilmer secondary for a 52-yard touchdown.

“The screen was a great call by them,” Traylor said. “We were in two-deep, man-under and they did a good job of coming in and picking the guy we had coming because it was totally legal. We missed a tackle and (Collins) is a fantastic football player. We doubled him almost all night long, but that’s a great play call when you double him because you’re knocking off the bottom guy. The top guy’s got to make that play and we didn’t get the tackle.”

Bauer tackled Barr for a three-yard loss on second down and sacked Barr for a loss of seven yards back to the 12 on Gilmer’s next series. That resulted in good field postion when Navasota’s Lamarquis Jefferson returned the ensuing punt to the Gilmer 35.

Four plays later, Baker snuck it in from 2 yards to push Navasota’s lead to 13-3. Navasota pushed it to 20-3 on its next possession when Randle ran 52 yards to the end zone. Collins made a diving catch for a 4-yard touchdown late in the half, giving the Rattlers a 26-3 lead.

Gilmer’s Josh Walker (right) comforts Tanner Barr after Gilmer’s 39-3 loss to Navasota in the Class 3A Division II state championship game on Friday in Arlington. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Class 3A Division II
State Championship

Navasota 39, Gilmer 3

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington

Navasota        7   19    7    6    –   39
Gilmer             3    0    0    0    –     3
First Quarter
GIL–FG Pablin Olivares 29, 4:33
NAV–Austin Collins 52 pass from Ka’Darius Baker (Michel Martinez kick), 2:46.
Second Quarter
NAV–Baker 2 run (kick failed), 11:55.
NAV–Derrion Randle 52 run (Martinez kick), 6:42.
NAV–Collins 4 pass from Baker (kick failed), 3:35.
Third Quarter
NAV–Collins 82 run (Martinez kick), 4:01.
Fourth Quarter
NAV–Howard Horn 12 run (kick failed), 4:39.

                                      NAV               GIL
First Downs                         15                 12
Rushes-Yards                31-245            41-83
Passing Yards                     160                79
Comp.-Att.-Int.              10-16-0          6-26-1
Punts-Avg.                      3-34.3          6-39.0
Fumbles-Lost                       1-0               2-2
Penalties-Yards                   3-20            3-30

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING–Navasota, Austin Collins 4-96, Derrion Randle 12-75, Howard Horn 12-68, Ka’Darius Baker 3-6. Gilmer, Tanner Barr 16-21, DeVondrick Dixon 2-20, Jamel Jackson 7-18, Kris Boyd 9-12, Josh Walker 5-10, Chase Tate 2-2.
PASSING–Navasota, Baker 10-15-0–160, Collins 0-1-0–0. Gilmer, Barr 5-23-1–68, Tate 1-3-0–11.
RECEIVING–Navasota, Solomon McGinty 5-65, Collins 3-64, Horn 1-24, Terrance Creek 1-7. Gilmer, Jaidon Parrish 4-56, Boyd 1-21, Trey Washington 1-2.

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