After a long and impressive season by the Argyle Eagles, including 31 straight wins, they fell just short in double overtime of the state championship game to the Navasota Rattlers 42-35. The teams were polar opposites in their game plans, with Argyle running the ball for 236 yards and only passing for 123 while Navasota lost 8 yards running the ball but threw for 493.
Navasota came out in the first quarter firing on all cylinders, grabbing a 14-0 lead thanks in large part to the play of their quarterback, Shelton Eppler.
“This whole week we’ve been talking about how he’s a good passer,” Linebacker Taylor Sweatt said. “Our defensive front was going hard and it was just a battle the whole game.”
Once the Eagles were down however, Running Back Nick Ralston began to once again put the team on his back by scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter to tie the game.
“We had a little bit of a slow start,” head coach Todd Rodgers said. “For us to get the offense rolling there and get the score tied at halftime was a testament to the kids. The defense was hanging on by a skin of their teeth against some really good players.”
Navasota had an incredible amount of success against a very stout Argyle secondary, led by Wide Receiver Tren’Davian Dickson who had 177 yards receiving and four touchdowns to add to his records.
“We tried to put another safety on top, but down after down after down he’s a hard one to stop,” Rodgers said. “You gotta look at it from two perspectives: You either design the coverage to cover him or you try to pressure the quarterback, try to get the ball launched in his acceleration phase, you can get an inaccurate pass. That’s essentially what we tried to do.”
The Eagles had their own offensive weapon in Ralston, who carried the ball a career-high of 54 times for 229 yards and four touchdowns. As they’ve done all season, every time Argyle faced an important down-and-distance, they trusted Ralston to get the necessary yardage.
“When you have a good racehorse you ride him until the very end,” Rodgers said. “We have a great offensive line and we’ve got a great running back. We had some opportunities to run the ball during the game, and we took advantage of those, but down after down it’s not a defense you can throw the ball on successfully. They’re very athletic in the secondary. We just didn’t feel like we could get open and execute with that.”
This game was the last one of the Arizona State commit’s high school career, so while he cherishes his teammates and the memories, this was not how he envisioned his final game.
“We executed our game plan and, when it came down to it, they just made more plays than us,” Ralston said. “In the end, we couldn’t get that fourth down conversion. The whole team played really hard and I’m proud of my guys. I’ll miss high school football.”
Argyle led by a touchdown with the ball with less than three minutes to play, but an interception by the normally clutch Quarterback Cooper Rodgers gave Navasota the ball and a chance.
“For us to turn the ball over there late, it’s unfortunate,” Rodgers said. “They went down and scored, and that’s what put it in overtime.”
Regardless of how this game turned out, Rodgers believes that the significance of this season shouldn’t be diminished.
“I’m very proud of the kids,” Rodgers said. “It has been an amazing season and it’s tough. It’s tough, especially when your kid’s playing quarterback. It’ll be happy grounds some time later. But I’ve spent as much time with these kids these past 20 weeks as I have with my own child, so it’ll be good.”
This team still has a lot of young leaders, including defensive MVP Taylor Sweatt, so the entire Eagles football team is looking forward to getting back to work for the 2015 season.
“We work together so well,” Sweatt said. “It’s sad we have to see the season go, but we still have that same bond. Some younger kids will step up, make plays and we’ll be back.”