PITTSBURG — Troy Morrell made a decision a month ago, and he stuck with it. And after top-ranked Butler Community College fell to No. 2 Navarro 13-12 in Sunday's Citizens Bank Bowl, he owned it.
The decision to abandon the kicking game was his, and it may have cost the Grizzlies their seventh national football title.
A 28-yard field goal from Juventino Sanchez with 1:11 to play gave Navarro its final margin of victory, and Chazz Edmond-Paris intercepted Butler quarterback Zach Mettenberger on the first play of the Grizzlies' final possession to seal the win.
But it was Morrell's decision to not attempt extra points or field goals — made after kicker Jordan Drake made 1 of 5 extra points and missed a 29-yard field goal in a 31-5 Region VI semifinal win over Coffeyville — that resulted in failed two-point conversion attempts after Butler's touchdowns and a turnover on downs in the second quarter when the Grizzlies had the ball at the Navarro 5-yard line in a scoreless game.
"Before the Region VI championship game against Hutch, we felt like we were better suited to get the ball in Zach's hands, in (tailback) Ben Axon's hands after we scored," Morrell said. "We make half of those and we're fine, but we came up short. We can sit here and point
fingers... but we had our opportunities and we just didn't get it done."
Neither team scored in the first half, but Navarro scored on its first possession of the second half, going 57 yards in just more than two minutes and taking a 7-0 lead on DePauldrick Garrett's two-yard run.
"I think we were all nervous in the first half, which is understandable because it's the national championship game," Navarro quarterback Adrian Nelson said. "We just had to calm down."
Butler (11-1) answered when Mettenberger found Conner Combes for an 11-yard touchdown pass, but he was sacked on the two-point attempt. Sanchez gave Navarro (11-1) the lead back, briefly, with a 26-yard field goal, but Mettenberger and the Grizzlies put together an 11-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up more than five minutes of clock and gave Butler a 12-10 lead on Cody Mills' 1-yard touchdown run.
Again, the two-point attempt fell short, this time on an incomplete pass.
"The woulda, shoulda, coulda is always gonna be there," said Mettenberger, who threw for 166 yards. "Navarro is a very talented team and it's tough to take away from what they accomplished today. We had our chances."
Navarro defensive end Toby Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who was part of Georgia's 2008 signing class with Mettenberger, ended two of the Grizzlies' chances to put the game away late with two huge sacks in the fourth quarter.
Both of Jackson's sacks came on third-and-long for Butler, both came from Mettenberger's front and both left the Butler quarterback laying on the turf for a few moments.
"I just used my speed.... I knew they were both good hits because I couldn't feel anything, couldn't hear the crowd or nothing like that," Jackson said. "I love my teammates, man, I did it all for them."
Jackson's second sack forced Butler to punt from its own 21 and gave Navarro the ball at its own 48 with 6:15 to play. The Bulldogs used up more than five minutes on 11 rushes from Garrett, Nelson and Daniel Palmer to set up Sanchez's game-winning field goal.
"I thought about trying to kick it on third down, but (Sanchez) said he wanted it on the right hash," Navarro coach Nick Bobeck said. "So we got it to the middle at least."
After the interception, Butler's players staggered off the sideline as Navarro took a knee to run out the clock, many with tears streaming down their faces.
"We talked about finishing all year long, from the very first practice on," Butler wide receiver Marcus Kennard said. "But we couldn't finish today. Now they get the ring and we don't."
Notes — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and LSU coach Les Miles were in attendance.... A team from the Southwest Junior College Football Conference beat a Jayhawk Conference team in last year's title game at the Citizens Bank Bowl when Blinn beat Fort Scott 31-26.... Garret was named the game's offensive MVP and Jackson was the defensive MVP.
Navarro (11-1) 0 0 10 3 — 13 Butler (11-1) 0 0 12 0 — 12
N—Garrett 2 run (Sanchez kick)
B—Combes 11 pass from Mettenberger (run failed)
N—Sanchez 26 FG
B—Mills 1 run (pass failed)
N—Sanchez 28 FG
Rushing — Navarro, Garrett 15-106, Palmer 14-54, Lea 2-8, Green 2-2, Nelson 8-(-3). Butler, Axon 23-59, Sanders 5-30, Mills 3-4, Mettenberger 5-(-30), Team 1-(-3).
Passing—Navarro, Nelson 8-20-107-2. Butler, Mettenberger 17-28-166-1.
Receiving— Navarro, Clark 4-79, Harper 2-27, Croak 1-1, Green 1-0. Butler, Wrenn 3-44, Rosenstengle 3-25, Freeman 3-15, Soft 2-25, Burns 2-18, Kennard 2-17, Combes 1-11, Axon 1-11.