The No. 7-ranked Trinity Valley Cardinals advanced to the regional championship game with a 47-34 victory over Navarro Saturday.
TVCC (8-2) defeated the Bulldogs, 25-19, in the regular season meeting in September at Corsicana.
With the victory, the Cardinals face No. 2-seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Golden Norsemen at 3 p.m. Saturday at Bruce Field.
NEO (8-2) advanced with a 38-34 victory over Blinn Saturday. It was the second straight week NEO has beaten Blinn.
We will focus on NEO and what we need to do Saturday," Trinity Valley coach Brad Smiley said. "We are playing another hot team since NEO and Navarro had won five and six straight. They are just like Navarro as they will come in feeling good and confident. We have to make sure that we have a great week of preparation and play well. I expect it to be a great game."
The game is being played at Bruce Field with a trip to the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas bowl Dec. 2 on the line.
In the victory over Navarro, the Cardinals took advantage of the opening play to take a quick 7-0 lead.
"As valuable as Tony Mullins is to us on offense and as many plays as he has made all year long, that was his first offensive touchdown," Smiley said. "He has returned a punt for a touchdown. That is something by the game plan that we liked it, and knew we would get a one-on-one opportunity. Anytime, you can get them one-on-one, we feel like our skill kids are some of the best in the country."
Mullins finished the game with two receptions for 67 yards and one TD.
Navarro (6-4) tied the game at 7 with 10:23 remaining in the first on a two-yard touchdown by Deandre Cook. Benigno Heredia booted the PAT good.
Trinity Valley scored the final 10 points of the first quarter to take a 17-7 lead into the second.
Kam Williams had his first of three TD receptions with 9:10 remaining in the first.
Williams scored on a 42-yard reception from Eppler for the 14-7 lead.
Smiley said the story of the game was taking advantage of the one-on-one matchups during the game.
"They are a defense that is going to hang the box and load the box," the coach said. "The receivers have to make plays, and they did. Kam Williams three touchdown's tonight one one-on-ones. Josh Hodges down on the sideline beat a guy one-on-one.
Sevier booted a 33-yard field goal good for the 17-7 lead with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Williams had a 19-yard reception from Eppler with 7:21 remaining in the half.
The final touchdown of the first half came on an 18-yard interception return by Greg Eisworth II with 1:17 remaining.
The interception gave TVCC a 31-7 lead heading into the intermission.
In the second half, Navarro attempted to make a comeback as Cook opened the scoring with a 63-yard run with 10:14 remaining in the third.
The Bulldogs got to within two touchdowns as 31-17 on a 33-yard field goal by Heredia with 6:32 remaining.
"It never got closer than two possessions (in the second half)," Smiley said. "I mean give them credit because they kept hanging in there and fighting. They made a few plays on some big plays. Their guys got loose in the second half, and sometimes they were refusing to go down. They have some good players."
TVCC scored its first touchdown of the second half with 2:31 remaining in the third as Eppler ran in a nine-yard TD. Sevier booted the PAT good for the 38-17 lead.
Cook then responded with a 16-yard touchdown with 1:09 remaining to cut the deficit to 38-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final frame, Heredia opened the scoring with 11:32 remaining on a 43-yard field goal.
Trinity Valley then responded as Williams hauled in an 18-yard reception from Eppler for his third TD. He finished with four receptions for 95 yards and three TD's.
The final touchdown for Navarro came with 8:09 left as Harry Woodberry found Matt Reyna on a 37-yard connection.
Navarro was pinned deep near their end zone as with 4:03 remaining Travell Lumpkin was tackled by Jack Lechman for a safety. It was the final score of the game for the 47-34 lead for the Cardinals.
TVCC was led by Eppler, who was 17 of 29 passing for 213 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
The leading rusher was Kendrick Johnson with nine carries for 33 yards.
Navarro was led by Woodberry, who was 23 of 42 passing for 236 yards with one TD and two interceptions.
The leading rusher was Cook with 19 carries for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
Reyna finished with four receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Kaylon Geiger had nine receptions for 90 yards.
(Story courtesy of Athens Daily Review)