The Navarro Panthers just can’t seem to get through a post season without seeing Cuero.
The Panthers’ state record of six straight seasons in which they met Cuero in the playoffs ended this year when the Gobblers failed to qualify for the post season.
This Friday night, however, Navarro, 12-0, will load the buses and head to the turkey capital where they will meet the Sinton Pirates, 7-5, in a Class 4A-II third round (regional semifinal) contest.
Navarro head coach Rod Blount said the choice of Cuero’s Gobbler Stadium was really just about it being the best venue available at a roughly even distance between Geronimo and Sinton. It seats about 7,000 fans, has artificial turf, and was renovated in 2013.
Still, Panthers’ fans might be forgiven for relishing the opportunity to celebrate their first ever win in Cuero—even if the Mean Green is not the opponent.
The opponent they will face is plenty formidable. Blount, who coached just 22 miles from Sinton when he led the program at Mathis, has delivered that message to his Panthers.
“I told the kids Sinton is a powerhouse in this region,” he said. “They had a down year last year (2-8 record) and lost a few early this year but now they have won six in a row. They’re believing in themselves and they have the tradition.”
Sinton won Navarro’s region in both 2013 and 2014 and they reached the state quarterfinals in 2015.
Panthers’ rivals Wimberley and Cuero have played Sinton several times each but this will be the first time these two schools have ever met.
The Pirates’ spread offense features a twin threat—literally. Their two main weapons are sophomore quarterback Rene Galvan and his twin brother, running back Rylan.
In last week’s 41-34 win over Llano, Rene threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 71 yards and one touchdown. Rylan rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown.
Rene has passed for 1,417 yards on the season while Rylan has rushed for 1,379.
“The running back (Rylan) is a fast back,” Blount said. “He has good vision, makes really good moves, and he’s hard to get down in the open field. The other Galvan does a great job buying time and getting the ball to his receivers.
“So if you commit too much to stopping the running back, they can get it out to receivers (Jackson Allen and Daelyn Davis) who can hurt you as well.”
Sinton’s is a big play defense. They returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a game against Orange Grove earlier this season and sealed the victory over Llano with a Pick-Six. They also recorded six sacks in last week’s game.
Blount said they bring pressure from their linebackers and from an athletic defensive line and that has led to them forcing numerous turnovers.
He said Sinton’s strength is their safeties Jackson Allen and Rogelio Rivas. They are both seniors.
“They are fast and physical,” Blount said of the two. “They will creep up to the line of scrimmage and be at about linebacker depth at the snap of the ball. Then they’ll run downhill and they’re sure tacklers.”
The Panthers will hope to continue to control their turnovers—they have lost just two fumbles all season long and none in the past six games. They will hope that is enough to keep a running game on track which is just over 300 yards short of the school record for team rushing in a season.
The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. As in their previous playoff games, Navarro will be the visiting team.
The winner of the meeting between Wimberley and Rockport-Fulton will await the winner of this game in the state quarterfinals.
PANTHER NOTES: Navarro’s Euler Deleon has been named one of just 12 National Finalists for the Heisman High School Scholarship. The scholarship was created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and aims to recognize exceptional ability and encourage integrity and community responsibility, according to its website. The winner will be announced on December 4.
Having coached in Sinton’s region, Blount said they have a passionate fan base that is likely very excited about their team’s return to playoff success. A large contingent from the Coastal Bend can be expected for this game.
Blount does not expect the Thanksgiving holiday to change his team’s weekly routine significantly. He said they will do their normal Thursday afternoon light practice on Thursday morning before letting everyone join their families.
This will be the third time the Panthers have played in Cuero. They fell to Refugio there 44-14 in the second round of the 2001 playoffs and lost to the eventual state champion Gobblers in a district game last season 43-7.