Panthers hope they’re WO-S worthy
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Don’t look for the head coach of the Navarro Panthers to say anything crazy and wind up on the West Orange-Stark bulletin board this week.
You could almost hear Les Goad genuflecting to Cornel Thompson and the Mustangs over the phone Tuesday afternoon.
“Well, they’re just awfully talented and have been here multiple times,” Goad said about the Mustangs, his team’s opponents in a Class 4A Division II state semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
“This is first time for us. They’re going to be a tremendous challenge. They’re on a record-setting year on the defensive side of the ball. We’re just glad to be there on our side.”
Both teams are 14-0 but WO-S manhandled its fourth-round opponent, Giddings, 48-5, last week.
The Chain Gang Defense of the No. 1-ranked Ponies owns eight shutouts and has outscored opponents 738-56, for an average game score of 53-4.
Navarro needed two scores of more than 90 yards out by defensive back Garrett Weaver to get past Cuero 35-21 last week.
“We ran into Cuero three years in a row, but we finally got over that hump,” says Goad, in his eighth year at the school which is located in the off-the-beaten-path town of Geronimo, between Austin and San Antonio.
“This is a tremendous honor to play against a program so rich in tradition.”
The Panthers, 35-3 since 2014, have built some tradition of their own.
“Our senior class is really strong,” Goad says. “We’ve had 10 or 11 seniors every year, but I think they just had a little more maturity this year. They finally came together as a group.
“And we finally got past Cuero.”
The Panthers beat Cuero despite being held under 200 yards rushing by the Gobblers.
In the playoffs, Navarro is averaging 370.5 rushing yards and 432.8 total yards per game while outscoring opponents 50.5-17.3 per game.
Leading the rushing attack for Goad are three seniors — Jake Wright, Jared Leal and Tanner Law — who run from the Slot-T, the same offense favored in these parts by Bridge City.
Wright, a two-time district MVP at linebacker, has rushed for 1,140 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Leal has 1,052 yards and 20 TDs while Law has 975 yards and an 8-yard per carry average to go with eight TDs.
Junior quarterback Will Eveld, has thrown for 1,449 yards and 20 touchdowns despite passing fewer than 10 times per game.
Weaver, a 5-8 speedster who scored last week on a 94-yard kickoff return and a 97-yard interception return, has eight pickoffs this season.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to do something that most people haven’t done,” Goad says of his team’s prospects of denying WO-S its third straight title game appearance.
“We’re going to have to control the ball a little bit and put some points up, which seems a big task for most people. On the other side of ball, we’re going to have to not give up the big play.”
Nothing controversial about that.