Nobody felt Butler Community College's two-season streak of opening losses more than Troy Morrell.
The Grizzlies' coach even added another year to the streak this week in practice. Just for good measure.
"I'm out there screaming at the guys this week, yelling about how mad I am we hadn't won a season opener in three years," Morrell said. "Then one of our sophomores came over and reminded me it was just two years."
In any case, that streak ended Thursday night in front of 6,458 fans at Cessna Stadium as the sixth-ranked Grizzlies defeated No. 4 Navarro College 16-10 behind a clutch defensive performance and some timely offense.
It didn't hurt that Navarro decided to implode several times, and at the most inopportune moments.
"Getting this win to start the year after the bad season we had last year feels incredible," said Butler defensive end Cornelius Carradine, who led the Grizzlies with two sacks. "It took us a second to catch on to what Navarro was doing, but when we did we started rolling."
The teams traded turnovers to open the game, with Navarro coughing up a fumble after Depauldrick Garrett's 67-yard run brought the Bulldogs to the Butler 1-yard line. The Grizzlies gave it back three plays later on a fumble from running back Aaron Wilson that Navarro turned into a 23-yard field goal from Juventino Sanchez for a 3-0 lead.
Butler followed suit and turned a mistake into points of its own when Navarro punt returner Marquez Clark muffed a punt at his own 14. The Grizzlies scored five plays later on a 1-yard touchdown run by Cody Mills for a 7-3 lead. Navarro answered back on its next possession, driving from its own 34 before quarterback Roddy Green found Jordan Jolly for a 17-yard touchdown pass to take the lead back at 10-7.
Butler blew a touchdown opportunity with time winding down in the first half when a wide-open Kindel dropped a sure touchdown pass from Zach Mettenberger on third-and-goal from the Navarro 3-yard line. The Grizzlies settled for a 20-yard field goal from Jordan Drake to tie the score with 5:55 left in the half.
"Zach got hit on four of the first 15 plays and our offensive line just wasn't blocking anybody," Morrell said. "But one thing about our kids is that they've responded all through camp to challenges, and that was no different tonight."
Butler took advantage of another special-teams mistake by Navarro to take the lead after Navarro's Tajh Fite was called for a roughing the kicker penalty as Butler tried to punt, then slammed his helmet on the turf and was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Four plays later, Mettenberger found Marcus Kennard in the back of the end zone on a 22-yard touchdown pass for a 16-10 lead.
"I pump-faked the corner and he bit, and then Marcus was just wide open," Mettenberger said. "I hadn't played in a year so there was a little bit of getting used to being back on the field, but that was for everybody. We fought through it and came out with a win."
Navarro had one final opportunity to either take the lead or tie the game after Butler gave the ball back on its own 14-yard line following a bad punt snap. The Bulldogs drove to the 7 before three straight fumbles on the center-quarterback exchange pushed them back into a fourth-and-35 and forced them to punt. Interceptions by City League products Teyon Reese (Northwest) and Dyllon Knox (Kapaun Mount Carmel) on Navarro's final two possessions sealed the win for the Grizzlies.
"It's something as simple as a quarterback-center exchange, something that you don't screw up one time all through camp... ," said Navarro coach Nick Bobeck. "And then you get in the game and it ends up killing you."
El Dorado stadium project gains steam — The drive for a new stadium in El Dorado got a big lift on Thursday with a $1.25 million gift from BG Products to up the donations for the stadium to $2 million total. The new stadium, which will be called the BG Products Veterans Sports Complex, is tentatively scheduled to seat 3,000 on the home side and 1,000 on the visitor side, with a possibility of expansion to 4,500 on the home side and 2,000 for visitors. The site of the stadium will be on what was formerly the American Legion golf course, across the street from Butler's campus.
Navarro (0-1) 10 0 0 0 -- 10 Butler (1-0) 7 3 6 0 — 16
N — Sanchez 23 FG
B — Mills 1 run (Drake kick)
N — Jolly 17 pass from Green (Sanchez kick)
B — Drake 20 FG
B — Kennard 22 pass from Mettenberger (kick failed)
Rushing — Navarro, Garrett 16-145, Palmer 2-6, Green 13-(-82). Butler, Axon 31-101, Wilson 5-10, Kindel 1-4, Mills 4-3.
Passing — Navarro, Green 15-29-158-2. Butler, Mettenberger 11-18-119-1.
Receiving — Navarro, Garrett 4-35, Clark 3-40, Primes 3-26, Coleman 2-18. Butler, Freeman 3-36, Soft 3-27, Kennard 2-26, Axon 2-9.
Attendance — 6,458.