CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Region III Championship

Henderson Lions (11-2)

vs.

No. 1 Navasota Rattlers (13-0)

2 p.m. Saturday
Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin

 

Coaches
  • Henderson: Phil Castles
  • Navasota: Lee Fedora

 

Road to regional final

Henderson

 

Navasota

 

Next week
  • Winner faces Liberty Hill-Burnet winner, 4A Division I state semifinal

 

Playmakers

Henderson

  • QB Zane Boles, Sr., 6-5, 205 (100 of 184, 1,565 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs; 143 carries, 1,134 yards, 19 TDs)
  • RB Randy Davis, Sr., 6-0, 185 (179 carries, 1,064 yards, 16 TDs; 11 catches, 121 yards)
  • RB La'Kendrick Vanzandt, Soph., 6-1, 185 (77 carries, 637 yards, 9 TDs; 12 catches, 244 yards)
  • WR Trestan Ebner, Soph., 5-11, 175 (38 catches, 889 yards, 11 TDs; 14 carries, 68 yards, TD)
  • WR Jefferson Armstrong, Sr. (21 catches, 366 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB Seth Hensley, Sr., 5-11, 205 (141 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, PBU)
  • LB Dalton Goode, Sr., 5-11, 205 (137 tackles, 7 for loss, 5 sacks, 11 QB pressures, forced fumble, recovery)
  • DL Zach Allen, Sr. (121 tackles, 13 for loss, 3 sacks, 28 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles)

 

Navasota

  • WR Tren'davian Dickson, Jr., 6-1, 178 (64 catches, 1,720 yards, 30 TDs; committed to Baylor)
  • QB Shelton Eppler, Jr., 6-1, 185 (219 of 322, 4,246 yards, 61 TDs, 9 INTs)
  • RB Jarvis Norman, Jr. (60 carries, 561 yards, 6 TDs)
  • WR Jerbrell Lipscomb, Sr., 5-9, 185 (42 catches, 682 yards, 4 TDs; 3 carries, 29 yards)
  • LB Coy Imhoff, Sr. (129 tackles, 14 for loss, 2 sacks, 3 PBUs, forced fumble, recovery, blocked kick)
  • DE Jabril Hunter, Soph. (72 tackles, 20 for loss, 7 sacks, forced fumble, 2 recoveries)
  • DB Davon Jernigan, Sr. (48 tackles, 2 for loss, 4 INTs, 7 PBUs, fumble recovery)
  • DL Johnathan Flores, Jr. (45 tackles, 9 for loss, 6 sacks, forced fumble)

 

Just the facts
  • Henderson is playing in its fourth state quarterfinal in five years. The Lions defeated Lucas Lovejoy in 2010, Celina in 2011, and lost to Gilmer in 2012.
  • Navasota is playing in its fifth state quarterfinal in six years. The Rattlers defeated West Orange-Stark in 2012, but lost to Chapel Hill (2010, 2011) and Gilmer (2009) in their previous three.
  • Henderson is averaging 41.1 points and 396.1 yards per game -- 256.9 rushing and 139.2 passing.
  • Phil Castles is 11-2 in his second season at Henderson. He was a combined 23-13 in year two at his previous head coach stints in Elysian Fields, Chapel Hill and Corsicana.
  • The cumulative record of Henderson's opponents this season is 76-73 (.510).
  • Navasota is averaging 61.2 points and 552.1 yards per game -- 217.6 rushing and 334.5 passing.
  • If Navasota plays the full 16 games this season, junior quarterback Shelton Eppler is on pace to throw for 5,223 yards and 75 touchdowns. The yardage total would be second all-time, 334 yards behind Refguio's Travis Quintanilla. But the touchdowns would shatter Quintanilla's mark by seven.
  • The cumulative record of Navasota's opponents this season is 61-71 (.462).

 

Henderson quarterback Zane Boles breaks a tackle to score a touchdown during the Lions' 37-14 home win last week against Chapel Hill. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Henderson rushing attack vs. Navasota defensive front. The Rattlers' offensive numbers this season are out-of-this-world good, and it makes all the sense in the world for opponents to refrain from attempting to match Navasota score-for-score. In order to beat Navasota, its offense must have its possessions limited by an opposing offense that eats up clock and is remarkably efficient. Enter Henderson, which has the necessary ingredients to do just that. The Lions don't have anybody with flashy stats, but their main three cogs in the offensive backfield -- quarterback Zane Boles and running backs Randy Davis and La'Kendrick Vanzandt -- have done just fine so far. Henderson may not seem like the most explosive of offenses, but it was good enough to hang 60 on a very sound Jasper team last week. On the season, Henderson averages nearly 400 yards per game, with close to 260 of that coming on the ground. Boles, a 6-5, 205-pound rock behind center, defies the conventional wisdom of big-bodied quarterbacks. It's not so much what he does within the pocket, but more about his abilities on the run. Davis and Vanzandt have plus-speed, so the RB tandem serves as a quality compliment to Boles' bruising style of running.

Henderson's La'Kendrick Vanzandt looks for room to run during the Lions' 37-14 home win over Chapel Hill on Oct. 31. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Navasota shares one common opponent with Henderson, and that's Chapel Hill. Henderson knocked off the Bulldogs, 37-14, on Oct. 31, while Navasota overcame a second-half deficit to eliminate them, 49-28, two weeks ago in the area round. Chapel Hill's ground game had 292 yards that night against the Rattlers' defense, which bodes well for Henderson, but the Lions will probably have to do more in order to remain competitive into the fourth quarter. Along with the success Chapel Hill's ground attack had on Navasota, the Bulldogs also added three touchdown passes, which were a direct result of their effectiveness running the ball. After allowing no more than 15 points through its first 11 games, Navasota has surrendered a total of 64 in the last two weeks to Chapel Hill and El Campo, which suggests Henderson should be able to move the ball and be in position to score. The only question then becomes: can the Lions score enough? The Rattlers' last two postseason foes couldn't, losing by three scores each.

Henderson's Trestan Ebner catches a pass during the Lions' 60-43 win over Jasper in their Class 4A Division I regional semifinal playoff Nov. 29 in Lufkin. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Don't be surprised if: It takes more than 40 points to win the game. Since a puzzling 24-18 loss to Kilgore in the regular-season finale, which cost Henderson an undefeated district campaign, Henderson's offense has put it in high gear with playoff point totals of 48, 36 and 60 against Silsbee, West Columbia and Jasper. The Lions thrived on the big play in last week's victory, averaging 9.5 yards per snap. Henderson had three touchdowns that covered 53, 51 and 39 yards as most of the Lions' explosive plays came via the pass. Henderson was 10-of-12 passing on the day for 298 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Trestan Ebner, who averages more than 23 yards per catch, led the way in the passing game with six catches for 181 yards and three scores. Ebner could be an X-factor for Henderson, as Navasota's defense must devote most of its resources to defending Boles' run-pass option and the running back tandem of Davis and Vanzandt. Navasota's offensive exploits are well-documented. The Rattlers have a receiver in junior Baylor commit Tren'davian Dickson, whose 34 touchdown receptions are a new single-season state record. Quarterback Shelton Eppler, another 2016 prospect, is just seven touchdown passes shy of the state mark set by Refugio's Travis Quintanilla last season. If Henderson can hold Navasota to less than 40 points, which only one team has been able to do all season, the Lions have enough firepower to make things interesting.