Daily practices hitting teammates and tackling dummies has to get old quickly.
Before long, players want to get in their licks against a real opponent.
That chance came for the Navarro Panthers on Friday night as they hosted the Fredericksburg Battlin’ Billies in their first scrimmage of 2019.
It proved to be a fairly even matchup at this early stage of the season. The Panthers scored five touchdowns to the Billies’ four. Both showed areas where they should be strong and areas where they will need to work.
As expected, the Panthers showed they can gain yards on the ground in both small and large chunks. Senior Euler Deleon, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, appeared to be in midseason form when he evaded would-be tacklers on his way to a 70-yard touchdown run.
There were signs of depth in the backfield, too, as running backs Konnor Schwarzlose and Cole Mouser each found the end zone with the Panthers’ second unit. Schwarzlose’s score came on a 40-yard run while Mouser ran for a nine-yard touchdown.
But Navarro also showed they may find more success in the air this year than in previous seasons. Three players are competing for the starting QB job—juniors Sam Muniga and Mark Wozniak and sophomore Nick Billings. All played and performed well when on the field.
One highlight came when Billings lofted a deep pass down the middle of the field, which receiver Myles McCord ran under and took into the end zone for a 70-yard completion.
Later, Muniga hit running back Johnny Alegria in stride for a 57-yard touchdown.
Navarro head coach Rod Blount likes his options in the passing game.
“All three have good strength and good qualities,” he said. “We’re looking for that one guy to step up and take control.
“We’ll let them battle it out for another week and then we’ll make our decision and stick with it.”
The Panthers return just three starters from last year’s defense and that lack of experience showed at times. The Billies connected on three passes of 60 yards or more against Navarro’s first team defense. And except for a late sack by defensive end Cooper Syzdek, the Panthers struggled to get a push against the Billies’ big offensive line.
“We have a lot of young guys trying to come together,” Blount said of his defense. “We blew some coverages tonight. We’ve got to get that fixed and make sure guys are in the right spot on every play.”
Like Navarro, Fredericksburg is hoping for big things in 2019. They return six offensive and nine defensive starters and are picked for a playoff spot in a 4A, Division 1 district that includes perennial power Liberty Hill.
The Panthers will participate in one more preseason scrimmage when they travel to Devine this Thursday night to face the Warhorses. The teams have scrimmaged every year since 2004 and have met in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
The freshmen squad will play at 5 p.m. followed by the junior varsity at 6 p.m. and the varsity at 7 p.m.
Navarro will kick off their regular season on Friday, August 30 on the road against the Gonzales Apaches.