Photo: Enzo DeMarco/

GERONIMO, Texas — Defending Class 2A state champion Refugio couldn’t avenge its lone loss from last season. Navarro started strong and held off a second-half rally to put down the Bobcats 21-17 Friday at Erwin-Lee Field in Geronimo.

The Panthers scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives to take a 21-7 lead with 5:08 left in the second quarter. Refugio hit a field goal at the halftime buzzer and found the end zone on the opening possession of the third to make it a four-point game, but was shut out the rest of the way despite reaching Navarro territory on two fourth-quarter drives.

“First of all, we played a great first half,” said Navarro coach Les Goad. “Second half, you got to take your hat off to Refugio. They played lights out, but our kids did enough there at the end to hold them off.”

Navarro junior running back Chris Gomez rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and senior quarterback Will Eveld added 84 yards and a score on eight rush attempts. Refugio sophomore quarterback Jared Kelly threw for 187 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-25 passing while completing passes to eight different receivers.

Gomez felt his team’s physicality was the reason they were able to build the early lead.

“We had to treat this game like a playoff game and we came out and did that. In the first half, we came out and popped them in the mouth like we discussed in practice,” Gomez said. “The physicality here is awesome. They can’t get any better than what we got over here. Everything is a competition here. We ain’t just competing on the field. We’re competing with each other. Whether its yards, touchdowns, anything. It’s all about the competition.”

Eveld got the scoring started with a 40-yard dash to the end zone and Gomez made it 14-0 when he followed a 49-yard run with a 3-yard scoring plunge. Refugio cut the deficit in half with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to senior wide receiver Trent Ross, but the Panthers responded with a 2-yard touchdown run from senior Will Reyna to cap an 11-play, 65-yard drive that was aided by two 15-yard defensive penalties.

“(The first half) felt great. Offensively, felt like we did a great job. Defensively, we didn’t give up too much,” Goad said. “Felt like the momentum was on our side, but Refugio, like I said, quality football team. They’re picked to win a state championship. Wouldn’t be surprised if they do.”

The Bobcats will be cursing themselves for blown opportunities. Their second drive made it all the way to Navarro’s 16-yard line before Kelly turned the ball over on a bad toss. They also missed a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth and got stuffed on fourth down and three after being gifted the ball at Navarro’s 42-yard line off a fumble.

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