With 168 yards on 22 carries in Friday's playoff loss to Cuero, Navarro junior Chris Gomez finished the 2017 season with a team-high 1,152 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Photo by Andie Rangel.
(San Antonio) - Cuero eliminated Navarro from the UIL football playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons Friday night, staving off a second-half rally to hand the Panthers a 38-24 loss in the 4A Division II Region IV semifinals at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.
After falling behind 31-0 midway through the third quarter, Navarro used three touchdowns and three two-point coversions to outscore the Gobblers 24-7 and whittle the deficit to 14 points with 3:59 left in the game, but the Panthers came no closer from that point.
Navarro head coach Les Goad applauded his team's resolve after a number of missed opportunities helped Cuero build the 31-point lead.
"They have a lot of pride in who we are and what we do," Goad said. "As a coaching staff, it took us a little while to find some things that we could take advantage of, and then they just kept fighting, kept playing. Maybe we wore them down a little, I don't know, or maybe they let up a little bit because they were up that much, but I'm just proud of the way they kept competing."
The Gobblers used pristine field position to take a 17-0 lead into halftime, capping drives of 51, 31, and 41 yards with short touchdown runs by Jared Love and Drew Riemenschneider and a 35-yard field goal by Isaiah Mungia.
Riemenschneider connected with blue-chip recruit Jordan Whittington for touchdown passes of 38 and 19 yards in the third quarter to put Navarro in a 31-point hole.
The Panthers broke up the shutout with 45 seconds left in the third quarter when Tyler Law powered into the end zone from two yards out at the end of a nine-play, 63-yard march, and Mason McCalip's second two-point conversion run in as many weeks made it a 31-8 affair.
Navarro attempted an onside kick after the touchdown, but Cuero recovered it and returned it to the Panthers' 39. One snap later, Love broke through the secondary for his second score of the night, giving the Gobblers a 38-8 cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Chris Gomez's team-high 15th rushing touchdown of the season, followed by a two-point conversion from Will Eveld, capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive that cut the deficit to 38-16 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Will Reyna broke loose for a 13-yard touchdown run to finish a nine-play, 67-yard drive with 3:59 remaining, and Eveld's second two-point conversion of the night capped the game's scoring.
Navarro's 24 points were the most scored by a Cuero opponent this season. The Panthers found success on the ground with their Slot-T attack, piling up 303 rushing yards on 53 carries.
Gomez totaled 168 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and Eveld finished with 66 yards on 16 attempts. Both players finish the season with over 1,000 rushing yards - Gomez with 1,152 and Eveld with 1,047.
Cuero's defensive speed completely negated Navarro's passing attack. Eveld completed just one throw for nine yards to George Bradley in eight attempts, and the Gobblers intercepted him twice. Cole Toller and Claevon Patton each picked off Eveld once, and Toller added another interception on a trick-play pass by Mason McCalip.
Despite struggling against one of the top defenses in the state Friday night, Eveld heads off to Brown University with his name next to virtually every Navarro passing record, as well as the single-season school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
Eveld was a four-year starter at quarterback and in the defensive secondary, and a multi-year All-District award winner on both sides of the ball. Goad says he'll be as tough to replace as any senior he's coached in 11 years at Navarro High School.
"Will just gave us that dynamic on the offensive side to be able to do lots of things," the coach said. "I know everybody considers us a Slot-T team, and we are, first and foremost, offensively, but we became very multiple in big part because of Will Eveld's abilities to be mutliple and get people in the right positions, and make plays."
Senior quarterback Will Eveld leaves Navarro's football program with his name next virtually every school passing record, and a single-season quarterback rushing records of 1,047 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017. Photo by Andie Rangel.
Nine seniors suited up in Navarro uniforms for the final time Friday night - Eveld, Law, McCalip, Reyna, Brady Butler, Stone Sahd, Garrett Dietert, Colton Barnett, and Efrain Alfaro. Seniors Jared Cooper, Luis Rodriguez, and Brandon Chaney were inactive against Cuero, but called it a career as well.
The legacy of those seniors includes three consecutive trips to at least the third round of the playoffs and the distinction of being the only class in school history to never lose a varsity home game.
Navarro defensive end Brady Butler (82) sacks Cuero quarterback Drew Riemenschneider in Friday's third-round playoff game at Heroes Stadium. Photo by Andie Rangel.
After finishing second in District 13-4A-Division II and advancing three rounds in the post-season, Navarro's final 2017 record is 11-2. Cuero will face Wimberley, who beat Sweeny 42-17 on Friday, in the Region IV title game later this week.