Jasper Eyes Upset of Defending Champ + Top-Ranked Navasota
CLASS 4A DIVISION I AREA
Navasota Rattlers (11-0)
Jasper Bulldogs (7-4)
7 p.m. Friday
Moorhead Stadium, Conroe
- Navasota: Lee Fedora
- Jasper: Darrell Barbay
- Navasota: def. West Columbia, 52-16
- Jasper: def. Brownsboro, 57-14
- Winner faces winner between Carthage and Stafford, regional quarterfinals
- WR Tren’davian Dickson, Sr., 5-11, 170 (70 catches, 1,276 yards, 21 TDs; committed to Baylor)
- QB Shelton Eppler, Sr., 6-1, 185 (176 of 279, 3,160 yards, 49 TDs, 1 INT)
- WR Kae’ron Baker, Sr., 6-2, 175 (32 catches, 594 yards, 12 TDs)
- WR Deeldre Richardson, Jr., 5-9, 160 (39 catches, 697 yards, 5 TDs)
- DB Tremayne Creeks, Jr. (75 tackles, 14 for loss, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery)
- LB DJ Harris, Sr., 5-11, 190 (96 tackles, 14 for loss)
- DT Jonhathan Flores, Sr. (67 tackles, 29 for loss, 6 sacks, 11 QB pressures, 2 fumble recoveries)
- DE Jabril Hunter, Jr., 6-3, 190 (71 tackles, 24 for loss, 7 sacks, 9 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- TE Cody Mitchell, Sr., 6-6, 230 (20 catches, 272 yards, 3 TDs; committed to Louisiana-Lafayette)
- QB Tiger Williams, Sr., 5-8. 175 (61 of 110, 1,006 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs; 192 carries, 1,450 yards, 28 TDs)
- RB Decorian Holmes, Jr., 5-8, 195 (139 carries, 889 yards, 13 TDs; 8 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD)
- DB JaKeithon Adams, Sr., 6-1, 165 (43 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 INT, 7 PBUs, 4 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- DE John McMillon, Sr., 6-3, 240 (47 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 QB pressures, 2 PBUs)
- S Reese Durand, Soph., 6-0, 170 (54 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 INTs, 3 PBUs)
- LB James Price, Sr., 5-8, 185 (86 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)
- DB Ledale White, Sr., 5-9, 160 (49 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 PBUs)
Just the facts
- Navasota, the defending 4A Division I state champion, is currently riding a 27-game winning streak. The last team to defeat the Rattlers was eventual state champion Carthage in the area-round of the 2013 playoffs.
- Jasper is shooting for its second appearance in the third round of the playoffs since 2005.
- Navasota is averaging 61.1 points and 426.9 yards per game — 136.5 rushing and 290.4 passing.
- The Rattlers’ defense is allowing 9.2 points per game, and has forced 29 turnovers in 11 games.
- The cumulative record of Navasota’s opponents this season is 45-61 (.425).
- Jasper is averaging 34.8 points and 371.3 yards per game — 256.1 rushing and 115.2 passing.
- The Bulldogs’ defense is allowing 28.9 points per game, and has forced 15 turnovers in 11 games.
- The cumulative record of Jasper’s opponents this season is 58-58 (.500).
Key matchup: Navasota passing attack vs. Jasper secondary. It would be hard to find a more productive and efficient passing offense anywhere in the state than that of the defending state champion Rattlers. The duo of senior quarterback Shelton Eppler and senior receiver and Baylor commit Tren’davian Dickson are following up last season’s historic performance with another tremendous campaign. Eppler finished 113 yards short of the state record for single-season passing yards in 2014 with 5,444, and set the state mark in single-season touchdown passes with 71. Meanwhile, Dickson finished last season with third-most receiving yards in a year with 2,163, and his 2014 TD total of 39 not only set the Texas record, but also the national mark. Both Eppler and Dickson are well behind their record paces from a season ago. Eppler would need to average 456.8 passing yards the next five weeks to tie last year’s performance, while Dickson must average more than 177 yards and 3.6 touchdown receptions the next five games to match his record-setting 2014.
Just because Navasota’s two biggest stars’ numbers are down compared to last season, that doesn’t mean the Rattlers’ offense as a whole has suffered. Navasota still averages more than 60 points and 425 yards per game, having scored at least 70 points in five games on the year. Aside from Dickson, two other Navasota receivers have emerged as viable threats to opposing defenses. Senior Kae’ron Baker and junior Deeldre Richardson have combined to catch 71 passes for 1,291 yards and 17 touchdowns. The extra firepower has helped Eppler complete more than 63 percent of his passes. To make matters even more difficult for opponents, Eppler has thrown just one interception in 279 attempts on the season.
Don’t be surprised if: Jasper sticks to its offensive strength. The Bulldogs are a run-first team, and haven’t had much trouble putting up points down the stretch. Since a 26-23 loss to Center in Week 4, Jasper has won six of seven and averaged almost 47 points per game in the process. The primary catalysts have been senior quarterback Tiger Williams and junior running back Decorian Holmes, who have teamed for 2,339 of Jasper’s 2,817 rushing yards. Both players were at their best in last week’s bi-district win over Brownsboro. Williams ran for 240 yards, Holmes added 140, and the two scored three touchdowns apiece in helping Jasper roll up 516 rushing yards as a team. The Bulldogs scored on their first possessions of the first half, and were never seriously challenged by Brownsboro, which allowed Jasper to stick to what it does best on offense.
Navasota’s defensive front could present a difficult task for Jasper. The Rattlers have 147 tackles for loss as a team, an average of more than 13 per game. Navasota has eight defenders that have tallied at least 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including senior defensive tackle Jonhathan Flores and junior defensive end Jabril Hunter.
Williams averages 11 passing attempts per game, and is completing a little more than 55 percent of them, and he has only one more touchdown pass than interception this season. Even if Navasota’s offense gets the Rattlers off to a big lead early, don’t expect Jasper to stray too far away from the running game. However, Bulldogs senior tight end Cody Mitchell — a Louisiana-Lafayette commit — is a premium option in the red zone. He has three touchdown receptions on the year, but one of them came last week against Brownsboro — a 7-yard score.