The Navasota offense posted huge numbers in a 45-13 win over Lexington on Friday. But the defense, and the team itself, suffered a big loss.
Senior linebacker Will Imhoff, who was the district defensive MVP and all-state player last year, sustained a compound fracture in his leg during the first quarter. Imhoff was taken to the hospital, he had surgery Saturday morning and is back home recovering.
Navasota (4-0), ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 3A poll, looked impressive in the passing game as quarterback Kadarius Baker threw for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Solomon McGinty had 277 receiving yards and two touchdowns — not to mention another long touchdown called back or the time he got the ball stripped on a 60-yard reception that had another 30 to go for the touchdown.
The Rattlers overcame a plethora of penalties, untimely fumbles and four touchdowns called back. Navasota needed every ounce of effort to take a 21-6 halftime lead. Rattler head coach Lee Fedora reminded his team of their moxie after the game.
“Like I told you at halftime, not a good first half. But we played the second half like Navasota Rattlers football plays,” he told the squad. “Hopefully we can look back and say that was our bad half.”
It couldn’t have gotten worse at one point in the first quarter. After Baker connected with McGinty for a 47-yard touchdown strike and the defense forced the Eagles to punt on a three-and-out, Navasota muffed the punt. Lexington quickly marched down to score on a touchdown pass — the second touchdown Navasota has given up in the first quarter this season.
Lexington (2-2), which dropped three spots to No. 10 in the Class 2A poll, kicked off to a Rattler who fumbled. The Eagles recovered and began another march. Lexington threw a screen pass to its running back, who cut against the grain. Imhoff said he rolled out of his block to the right, and that an Eagle blocker pushed a Rattler defender in the back, and Imhoff’s teammate fell on Imhoff’s leg.
“I knew it was broken as soon as it happened,” Imhoff told The Examiner on Monday.
One could have heard a pin drop at Rattler Stadium as the trainers and coaches tended to Imhoff on the turf. Players from both sides took a knee, and Imhoff yelled words of encouragement to his fellow Rattlers as he was carted off the field.
Both defenses took over from that point as no team scored until Navasota’s Austin Collins broke free on a 48-yard touchdown catch with 3:50 remaining in the first half. The Rattlers got the ball back quickly and scored even quicker as McGinty hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass to give the Rattlers their edge at halftime.
“Me, coach Fedora and Kadarius just kept communicating and all knew what was going on out there,” McGinty said. “Baker, you know, he’s going to put it on the money regardless.”
Baker was money again in the third quarter when he hit Keyone Johnson in stride in the back corner of the north end zone to give the Rattlers a 28-6 lead. The Rattler defense then got a score of its own when senior defensive end Jake Bauer scooped up a fumble and dashed 72 yards for a touchdown.
“It was rolling around so I said I gotta do it,” Bauer said. “I picked it up and took off running and I saw everyone beside me. I almost fell because my legs were about to give out. Xavier Creeks was right beside me laughing and yelling “Go Jake go Jake.” And when I got to the end zone I was so tired. I forgot who jumped on my back but my legs just gave out.”
That happy jumper was Collins, who unintentionally brought Bauer down to the turf.
Michael Martinez hit his first field goal of the season on a 24-yarder to start the fourth quarter and give the Rattlers a comfortable 38-6 lead. Navasota marched down field and Collins scored again, this time on a 9-yard run.
Lexington tacked on a touchdown pass with 1:27 to go in the game to cap all scoring.
In all, the defense played a solid game against a high-octane attack from a team that’s been to the Class 2A state semifinals each of the past two years. Consider this: Lexington ran 76 plays from scrimmage to Navasota’s 50, yet the Rattlers rolled up 473 total yards to Lexington’s 226.
“We used a technique that we’ve been working on all week that we didn’t do last week,” senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor said. “[Lexington] went hard every play. Even when we were up, they steady kept playing out there.”
Junior defensive tackle Jordan Wells, who was on a bundle of tackles throughout the night, said getting off the line quick and staying low was paramount in holding back the Eagle offense.
Bauer said they were also playing for their buddy.
“Pretty much, in the second half we all started playing for Will,” Bauer said.
Navasota travels to Fairfield this Friday to play the Eagles, which went 10-0 each of the last two regular seasons but are 3-1 now after losing, 26-23, to Center.