The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 10, 2012

Navarro gets redemption in rematch with NEO

By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer

MIAMI, Okla. — Don’t call it revenge.

Navarro likes to think of it more as redemption.

Whatever the Bulldogs were looking for — revenge or redemption — they got it Saturday afternoon at Robertson Field.

Navarro racked up 671 yards of offense — including 535 on the ground — and rolled past the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Golden Norsemen 62-24 to claim the 17th annual Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship.

Just two weeks ago on the same field, the Norsemen beat Navarro 26-24 to claim the SWJCFC regular-season crown. The Bulldogs more than avenged that on Saturday.

“Everybody was talking about this being a revenge game,” first-year Navarro coach Brian Mayper said. “It wasn’t revenge. Revenge is when someone does it to you. I thought we just had to redeem ourselves because we played pretty poorly that game (two weeks ago.)

“Our guys took that to heart and made things happen.”

NEO (9-2) took a 10-7 lead into the second quarter and the Bulldogs (9-2) missed a chance to tie the game with a hooked 36-yard field goal. But the Norse fumbled on their 20 on the first play after the miss and the Bulldogs attacked.

Darian Godfrey hit Eddie Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown pass and then, four plays later, got another short field thanks to a blocked punt.

Traylon Shead capitalized four plays later with a 13-yard touchdown run to make it 21-10.

The Norse put together a decent drive but missed a 34-yard field goal attempt.

Navarro took over from the 20 with 5:48 left in the half and went 80 yards in 14 plays, pushing the lead to 28-10 on another Godfrey-to-Johnson 11-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds left on the clock.

NEO went into the half trailing by 18 despite recovering two Bulldog fumbles and taking over after a missed field goal.

“In the first half we get a few turnovers and don’t score,” NEO coach Dale Patterson said. “They’re really good, probably the most athletic team we’ve played all year, and I knew we had to get up on them. And we when didn’t take advantage of us in the first half, it really hurt us.”

NEO opened the second half with two impressive drives, but those ended with an interception and another missed field goal, this one from 24 yards.

Navarro scored touchdowns after each drive to all but ice the game in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs were simply dominant on the ground, rushing 68 times for an average of 7.8 yards per carry.

Shead —a 6-foot-2, 225 pounder who played one season for the University of Texas and has already committed to play next year at SMU — led the way with 129 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Tyler Middleton had 108 yards and a score on six carries. The Bulldogs had three more players — Tim Wright, Godfrey and Cameron Washington — with at least 66 yards rushing.

“We couldn’t stop the run,” Patterson said. “Two big things — you have to take advantage of turnovers and you have to stop the run.

“We definitely couldn’t stop the run today.”

NEO finished with 330 yards of offense, including 136 yards on 10-of-30 passing by Clayton Mitchem. The Norse had 194 yards on the ground, led by Casey Curtis, who had 123 yards on 14 carries, including an impressive 34-yard touchdown that staked the Norse to a 10-7 lead with 6:52 left in the opening quarter.

The Norse, who went winless in SWJCFC play a year ago, now wait to see if they will be invited to a bowl game.

“We have a lot to be proud of. Last year we didn’t win a conference game and this year we’re regular-season champions,” Patterson said. “We had 10 straight games where we played really well. The longer we played so well, it kind of concerned me. Sooner or later you’re going to have one of those games and we kind of had one of them today.”