SHINER -- Eric Schleier and L.J. Anderson combined for more than 300 yards rushing and five touchdowns as the Navarro Panthers (3-2) cruised to a 48-21 non-district win Friday night over the Shiner Comanches (1-4).
Nose for the football
Navarro junior Javier Esparza pounces on a fumble Friday night in Shiner. Esparza recovered two in the contest.
photos & captions by Dan Kinsey
It was the Panthers' best offensive outing of the season as they rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense with 421 yards on the ground.
Schleier led the way with 164 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. It was the seventh time in his career and the third time this season that the senior has rushed for three or more touchdowns in a game.
Schleier also moved to second place in school history for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns scored, trailing only his former teammate, Jacob Garcia.
Anderson ran for a career high 140 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Navarro head coach Les Goad said getting both backs going is a big boost to his team's offense.
"It is important that we take opposing defenses' focus off just stopping Eric," he said. "We knew what L.J. could do and I thought he really shined tonight."
The Panthers got to work early, scoring on their first two possessions.
They went 73 yards in nine plays on their opening drive, which ended with Anderson taking a pitch to the right side for an easy 1-yard touchdown run. The PAT was wide, leaving the score at 6-0.
The second score came after defensive lineman Javier Esparza recovered a Shiner fumble at the Comanches' 45-yard line. The Panthers got on the board eight plays later as Schleier scored on a two-yard run. Tyler Howard added the extra point and Navarro owned a quick 13-0 lead.
Shiner answered early in the second quarter. On the first play after Navarro's only punt of the first half, Comanche quarterback Jacob Stafford broke several tackles on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive in which every play was on the ground. Schleier capped the drive with a 1-yard run, followed by a two- point conversion run by Anderson to put Navarro ahead 21-7.
But the feisty Comanches again answered with a quick scoring drive. They took just six plays to cut the Panthers' lead in half, scoring on a 28-yard run by running back Zach Lawrence.
Navarro junior L.J. Anderson turns the corner during a run Friday night in Shiner. Anderson rushed for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries.
Navarro's offense was not done for the half, however. Taking over at its own 7- yard line with less than two minutes remaining, it put together one of its best drives of the season. Receiver Gage Bowles hauled in passes of 33 and 8 yards and Schleier took a draw 24 yards to move the Panthers quickly down the field.
Then, with just 16 seconds left in the half, the Panthers ran a play that shifts everyone to one side and sneaks a receiver out to the other side. It worked, as quarterback Chris Sestak found sophomore tight end Desmond Smith wide open for a Navarro touchdown.
Sestak said he was glad when he heard the coaches call the play.
"We've worked on it in practice a lot," he said. "I knew Desmond was going to be open. But I didn't see him catch it because I got hit as I threw it.
"Scoring there really got the momentum on our side going into halftime."
Goad agreed, saying the score on the 93-yard drive was "really huge."
The Panther offense slowed down a bit in the third quarter before linebacker Ryne Arguello recovered a Shiner fumble at the Navarro 21.
From there, Navarro marched 79 yards in just seven plays. Many of those yards came on a 42-yard scamper by Anderson to the Shiner 21, with additional yards being added on by a personal foul call at the end of the play. Two plays later, Schleier dragged defenders with him for 8 yards and his third touchdown of the night and 12th of the season.
The Comanches have been plagued by turnovers all season and lost four fumbles in the game. The third of the four would prove especially costly. On the second play after the Panthers' score, Esparza recovered his second fumble of the night, this time at the Shiner 47. On the next snap, Anderson outraced everyone for a 47-yard touchdown run to blow the game open.
Each team would add one touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Panthers' score came on a 20-yard run by running back Pedro Carreon. It was Carreon's first carry of the season and gave Navarro its 48-21 winning margin.
It was a much-needed victory for the Panthers as they bounced back from an agonizing one-point loss to Lexington last week.
The game was also Navarro's last before district play begins in two weeks against undefeated Canyon Lake. Sestak said the Panthers will be ready.
"We are a hungry team," he said. "We want to go knock some heads and show the district what we can do this year."
Goad hopes to use the Panthers' open date this week to his team's advantage.
"We're going to work on getting more movement on our base plays," he said. "We're also going to work on adding a few wrinkles to our offense."
The district opener against Canyon Lake will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 at Erwin-Lee Field.