The Navarro Panthers (13-0) have once again advanced through three rounds of the playoffs only to find an old nemesis waiting for them.
This year’s reunion will take place on Friday afternoon when the Panthers tangle with their old friends the Wimberley Texans (10-3) in the state quarterfinals at the Alamodome.
Navarro has made it to this round four times in its history and in three of the four they met a team that was in their district.
In 2010, they fell to Wimberley in this same round to complete a season sweep for the Texans.
Last year, they suffered their second loss of the season to eventual state champion Cuero in the quarterfinals.
Navarro did meet Cuero at this stage in 2016 but at the time, the teams were in different districts.
Unlike in those years, however, the Panthers are not the team trying to even the score from an earlier loss. That is because Navarro routed the Texans 42-14 when the two teams met in Geronimo on Oct. 25.
The win kept the Panthers’ undefeated season going and resulted in their taking the District 13-4A-II title.
But the final score did not tell the whole story. Wimberley took an early 14-0 lead but lost starting quarterback Cooper McCollum to a concussion. After that, the Texans still out gained the Panthers and ran all over their defense for 262 yards.
The difference in the game was four turnovers and 17 penalties, creating an opening that Navarro used to blow the game open in the second half.
Rod Blount, who has won 23 of 26 games in his two years at Navarro, agrees that it was a much closer game than the four-touchdown margin would indicate.
“They held us to one of our lowest yardage totals all year (330) and controlled the ball the way we usually do,” Blount said. “We were fortunate to force some turnovers and have a lot of things go our way.
“We knew that if both teams took care of business and stayed healthy, we could see each other again.”
With McCollum healthy, Wimberley presents major problems for any defense. They are almost the definition of balanced as they have thrown for 230 yards per game while rushing for 203. The Texans have scored 154 points in their three playoff games.
“They have three backs that are really talented and (Moses) Wray sticks out,” Blount said. “Their balance is tough to defend. All our guys will have to take care of their responsibilities and we’ll have to give them some different looks to keep them off balance.”
The Texans have been giving up points — 145 total in their last four games. But their defense will be riding the confidence of coming up big last week. Defensive back Christian Marshall returned an interception for a touchdown to give Wimberley a 42-35 lead over Rockport-Fulton late in the contest. They later stopped a two-point conversion attempt to preserve the win.
This Navarro offense is not known for its balance — they have rushed for more than 5,000 yards and passed for less than 300. They did not even attempt a pass in last week’s 31-22 victory over Sinton.
Unless that suddenly changes, they will look to ride their stable of running backs to a regional championship. That starts with fullback Euler Deleon, who is the school’s first ever 2,000-yard single-season rusher and tailback Johnny Alegria, who passed the 1,000-yard mark last week.
But it was halfback Momo Sims — who needs just 26 yards to get his 1,000 yards — who was the most effective against the Texans in October. He ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns in that game while Deleon and Alegria were held to 64 and 79 respectively.
The Panthers did not complete a pass in that meeting.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. It will be the first time the Panthers have played a day game since their 2015 clash with the Texans in Wimberley.
If Navarro can get past the Texans, they will meet the winner of the West Orange-Stark and Silsbee game that will be played Friday night in Beaumont.