ARLINGTON — Navasota senior Austin Collins, Offensive MVP of the Class 3A Division II state championship game, loves his defense.
At least, he loves that they're on his team.
He's not quite sure what he would do if senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor and junior lineman Jordan Wells were trying to tackle him.
"It's hard to be Jaylyin Minor's and Jordan Wells' friend," Collins said. "Those are the two meanest people I've ever met in my life.
"They're just so strong, physical and reckless. I'm glad I'm not on the opposite team."
Gilmer quarterback Tanner Barr knows the feeling.
Wells and Minor lived in the Buckeyes backfield on the way to an overwhelming defensive performance as the Rattlers won their first state title, 39-3 over Gilmer, on Friday at Cowboys Stadium.
Navasota racked up four sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and five quarterback hurries, harassing Barr all afternoon and into the evening.
Wells accounted for six of those tackles for a loss, with a team-high 10 tackles, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and three QB hurries. Minor had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss and a couple QB rushes. Add in senior lineman Jake Bauer's nine tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss and Gilmer was in for a long night.
The Buckeyes ran 67 plays – 20 more than Navasota – but managed 162 yards for an average of 2.4 yards per play. In contrast, the Rattlers averaged 8.6 yards per play.
"We won this state championship because of our defense," Navasota head coach Lee Fedora said. "I think our defense got overlooked all year long. One hundred and ten points in 16 ball games – obviously, that's pretty dang impressive."
The Buckeyes took a 3-0 lead before the Rattlers defense took control. No matter what plays Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor called to try to give Barr time to throw, Wells and Co. kept bursting through the line and interrupting plays.
Roll the pocket to the right and Minor shoots through three defenders to force a throw-away. Try a screen pass and the linemen sniff it out and get their hands on the pass. When Barr wasn't throwing the ball away, he was running for his life, scrambling like a mad man to make the most of broken plays.
"(Wells is) a fantastic player," Traylor said. "He was just a superior force. We tried to double him, we tried to triple him… he was just too much."
The Rattlers defense, which limited the Buckeyes to 23 percent passing while holding them to 2.0 yards per rush, displayed their intensity each week in practice.
"Tuesday used to scare me every day in practice because that was our hitting day," Fedora said. "They would knock the fire out of each other, but what these kids do, they'd have a smile on their face."
Fedora asked his brother, North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora, what to do about the ferocity with which his defenders were tackling teammates in practice.
"He said let them play because when you back off in practice, then somebody gets hurt," Lee Fedora said. "I guess that's about the only thing he's told me in my life that was correct."
Now Fedora can tell his brother what it's like to win a state championship.