CORSICANA -- Henderson had to work hard on both sides of the ball to escape the first round of the playoffs with a win.

Lions quarterback Trae Hall scored on a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter, and the Henderson defense stopped Navasota on downs deep in Lions territory to close out a thrilling 31-24 victory Friday night in a Class 4A Division I bi-district contest at Tiger Stadium.

Henderson (9-2) will meet Sealy, a 42-28 winner over Houston North Forest, next week in the area round. A date, time, and location have yet to be determined.

“I can’t say enough about our kids moving the ball, time and time again answering back," said Henderson coach Phil Castles. "What a great football game.”

With time running out in the fourth quarter, Navasota (6-5) reached the Henderson 27-yard line. But a Miguel Ruiz tackle for loss, and consecutive pass break-ups by Jamarcus Jacobs and Ke'untaye Dunham brought up a fourth-and-15 with 1:27 remaining.

Rattlers quarterback Jeb Malek's pass fell incomplete, and Henderson was able to milk the rest of the clock.

“They took the wind in the fourth quarter, that was their choice in the second half," Castles said of Navasota. "And I would’ve done the same thing, that’s probably a good call. And sure enough it came down to the fourth quarter, and they threw it to the end zone and we got a stop.”

The Lions defense had struggled up to that point, especially on third down. Navasota finished the night 10 of 15 on third-down conversions.

“We changed up a little bit here and there, and we moved one of our bigger kids out wider," Castles said of the defense's final series. "But the kids still made plays, it wasn’t anything I did. It was those kids playing with a lot of heart.”

Henderson began the eventual game-winning drive at its own 25-yard line with 10:19 remaining.

Completions of 18 and 16 yards to Treylun Blanton got Henderson deep into Navasota territory, and on the 10th play of the drive, Hall weaved his way through the Rattlers defense for the touchdown and a 31-24 lead with 4:57 to go.

“We had to keep our heads up, we had to keep moving forward, we couldn’t back down," Hall said. "The team stepped up and started playing our game."

Hall, a senior, finished 16 of 20 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown, and added 113 yards and the score on the ground.

“He’s a special kid in a lot of ways," Castles said of his quarterback. "He’s a humble leader, he’s not full of himself, he takes care of a lot of these other kids. He picks up them up and gets them to practice or whatever he needs to do. And he’s been that way his whole life. He enjoys playing the game, and he plays hard, he gives extra effort and he doesn’t take plays off.”

Blanton had a team-high seven catches for 77 yards, while sophomore Caleb Medford had four receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Lions running back Lynn Freeney scored twice and finished with 80 yards on 16 carries.

“He’s played better and better the last part of district," Castles said of Freeney. "He played well at the first of the year and got a little banged up, so it’s good to have him back. He feels really good now physically, and he played really well tonight.”

Navasota was led by senior quarterback Jeb Malek, who passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns. His 19-yard scoring strike to Ladadrien Walker tied the game at 24-24 with 10:19 to play in the fourth.

Malek also threw a pair of touchdowns to Quantavius Moore, who finished with 10 catches for 159 yards. Ronnie Jackson added 98 yards on nine receptions.

The Rattlers drove 75 yards and scored on the opening drive of the game. Malek's 28-yard touchdown to Moore gave Navasota a 7-0 lead with 6:49 showing on the first-quarter clock.

Henderson responded with Axel Romero's 25-yard field goal later in the first, and took its lead first lead with a 15-play, 77-yard drive that was finished by Freeney's 9-yard run.

The Lions extended their lead to 17-7 one possession later when Hall hit Medford on post route, and the receiver extended the ball across the goal line for a 36-yard touchdown with just 29 seconds to play until halftime.

However, Navasota got great field position after Henderson elected to pooch the ensuing kickoff. And Malek's 36-yard touchdown pass to Moore with six seconds to play in the half cut Henderson's lead to 17-14.

Luis Baeza's 27-yard field goal midway through the third quarter tied the game, but Henderson answered on the next series, getting a 4-yard touchdown run from Freeney for a 24-17 lead with 1:53 to play in the third.

Henderson 31, Navasota 24

Class 4A Division I
Region III Bi-District Playoff
At Tiger Stadium, Corsicana

Navasota               7      7      3      7    --    24
Henderson             3    14      7      7    --    31

First Quarter
NAV--Quantavius Moore 28 pass from Jeb Malek (Luis Baeza kick), 6:49.
HEN--FG Axel Romero 25, 1:24.
Second Quarter
HEN--Lynn Freeney 9 run (Romero kick), 3:29.
HEN--Caleb Medford 32 pass from Trae Hall (Romero kick), :29.
NAV--Moore 36 pass from Malek (Baeza kick), :06.
Third Quarter
NAV--FG Baeza 27, 4:56.
HEN--Freeney 4 run (Romero kick), 1:53.
Fourth Quarter
NAV--Ladadrien Walker 19 pass from Malek (Baeza kick), 10:19.
HEN--Hall 9 run (Romero kick), 4:57.

                                          NAV                      HEN
First Downs                           20                          21
Total Yards                           384                       386
Rushes-Yards                   19-37                  33-212
Passing Yards                      347                       174
Comp.-Att.-Int.              28-44-0                16-20-0
Punts-Avg.                       2-27.0                  1-45.0
Fumbles-Lost                        2-0                       3-0
Penalties-Yards                   5-43                     6-40

RUSHING--Navasota, Joseph Gifford 4-34, Jeb Malek 11-15, Ja'Vonzae Jones 1-(-5), Thomas Robinson 3-(-7). Henderson, Trae Hall 12-113, Lynn Freeney 16-80, Keshoyn Alexander 4-16, Kourtland Jackson 1-3.
PASSING--Navasota, Malek 28-44-0--347. Henderson, Hall 16-20-0--174.
RECEIVING--Navasota, Quantavius Moore 10-159, Ronnie Jackson 9-98, Ke'Eric Moore 4-55, Ladadrien Walker 3-46, Robinson 2-(-11). Henderson, Treylun Blanton 7-77, Caleb Medford 4-69, Freeney 2-11, Jackson 1-9, Tyrek Blanton 1-7, Alexander 1-2.

More From East Texas Sports Network