Since the middle of the 2014 season, the Navarro Panthers have lost to just four teams.
The first three are Cuero--which has defeated them multiple times in that span--West Orange-Stark (in the 2016 State Semifinals), and district rival Wimberley.
But it might surprise those who do not follow the Navarro program closely to learn that the fourth team on that list is Marble Falls. The Mustangs took a 42-32 win against the Panthers last season that also ended Navarro’s 22-game home winning streak.
The Panthers will try to even the score when they travel to Marble Falls this Friday night for a non-district contest.
It will be a very different Mustangs’ team that Navarro sees on Friday. Gone is the wide-open passing offense that burned the Panthers for 259 yards in last season’s game.
Instead, Marble Falls will be using an offense that is quite familiar to Navarro: the Slot-T.
First year head coach Brian Herman has brought that offense to town. He previously served as an assistant coach at Liberty Hill and as the head coach at Lockhart, running the Slot-T at both stops.
It has not been an instant success for the Mustangs. They are 0-2 and have scored just six points total in their losses to Canyon Lake and Burnet.
But Navarro head coach Rod Blount, who has had great success coaching the Slot-T at both Mathis and Navarro, believes they eventually will make the offense work.
“It takes a while to get the timing down and the steps and the work ethic,” he said. “The offensive line has to go from a two-point stance in pass blocking to a three or four point stance and fire off the football and that is an adjustment.
“They improved a lot from Week 1 to Week 2. They simplified what they were trying to do and moved the ball well but were stopped by six turnovers. They’ve got the size and the athletes so it will all come together for them. But we just hope it takes at least one more week.”
Blount said the Mustangs have a strong backfield, calling tailback Keaton Rodriguez “really athletic and the guy they go to when the need a big play.” Rodriguez ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on eleven carries last week against Burnet.
Marble Falls returns nine starters on defense. Their leader is 6’5, 320-pound lineman Josh Whitecotton, whom Blount said has “incredible agility for a big guy. He makes plays all over the field.”
Blount said the Mustangs like to bring a lot of pressure from different areas. He said his staff charted their defense as stunting on 90% of the plays this season.
The fact that Marble Falls’ defense is now much more familiar with the Slot-T than they were a year ago is a concern for Blount.
“Their defense saw it in two-a-days, then they saw it when they scrimmaged Liberty Hill and opened the season with Canyon Lake,” he said. “It’s something their used to seeing and that is the opposite of what normally happens with our opponents.”
That defense held a usually potent Canyon Lake offense to just seven points.
Another concern for the Panthers is that starting tailback Johnny Alegria is expected to miss the game with a dislocated elbow he suffered in last week’s win over Marion. Blount said the X-ray showed there was nothing more serious—like a fracture or tear—so he hopes to have Alegria back within the next couple of weeks.
But Navarro appears to have depth at running back. Along with starters Euler Deleon—who already has 278 yards rushing through two games—and Momo Sims, several of their backups looked impressive in limited playing time against Marion.
Blount also expects to continue alternating between Sam Muniga and Nick Billings at quarterback for the time being.
“Both are doing a really good job for us controlling the offense,” Blount said.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday. It will be Marble Falls’ homecoming game.
Scot Kibbe is a regular contributor to the Seguin Gazette. He has covered Navarro football for 28 years.
PANTHER NOTES: Since moving to the Slot-T offense in 2007, Navarro is 6-1 against teams that run that formation. Their only loss came in a 2011 first round playoff game against Liberty Hill.
With four more wins this season, the Panthers will have 100 wins in the 2010-19 decade. They won 69 games in the 2000’s, 24 games in the 1990’s, 35 games in the 1980’s, and 23 games in the 1970’s.
The Panthers played a smaller school when they faced Marion last week. Against Marble Falls, they will face a 5A-II school with nearly twice Navarro’s enrollment.