The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Pirate football team saw its 2020 season come to an end in the area round after a tough, gritty battle with the Navasota Rattlers in a 39-34 loss Friday, Nov. 22 in Wharton.
It was a gut wrenching loss for RFHS, which featured a big performance on the ground by John Chupe. Chupe finished the game with 22 carries for 301 yards and two touchdowns (TD). In the end, the Rattlers made a defensive stand with one minute left to play, ending the hopes of a Pirate comeback.
“I’m extremely proud of the boys for the way they fought and way they played tonight,” said RFHS Head Football Coach Jay Seibert.
J. Seibert postgame told the team he couldn’t have been any more proud of the heart, toughness, and grit his team displayed in their climb back into a game with seemingly everything working against them.
“We played four quarters of Pirate football tonight. We played a team that was a district champion, and a very athletic one,” said J. Seibert. “We got behind two touchdowns, came all the way back to get the lead, got behind again and got the lead once more ... It was a great football game.”
Trailing 27-14 in the second quarter, the Pirates rallied from a 13-point deficit to take its first lead early in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, four lead changes occurred in the fourth quarter with Navasota scoring the last TD on a 47 yard run with 1:40 remaining.
RFHS finishes the 2020 season with an overall record of 5-6, playing in only 10 of those games due to a forfeit by Robstown (COVID-19).
After making two consecutive trips to the regional round in 2018 and 2019, the Pirates were unable to make it a third straight season.
The Pirates were also unable to claim a third straight district championship, finishing in second place behind Sinton in District 16-4A DII with a 3-1 record.
The area round brawl kicked off with a flurry of big plays from both teams.
Navasota marched downfield in the first possession of the game and scored on a 23-yard quarterback (QB) keeper with 8:13 in the first.
Three minutes later, Chupe exploded down the sideline for a 57 yard TD run to tie it at 7-all.
Navasota nearly matched Chupe’s effort a minute later, connecting on a 56-yard TD pass down the middle. The point after was blocked and recovered by Payton McAlister, his fifth blocked kick on the year.
After a Pirate punt, Navasota scored again on the opening play of the second quarter. A 13-yard QB keeper gave the Rattlers a 20-7 advantage.
RFHS went on a long drive in their next possession and scored on a six yard TD run by Ryan Wells to make it 20-14.
Navasota’s starting QB was injured in the next drive and did not make a return. Despite the injury, Navasota eventually scored on a 24-yard TD run after a controversial roughing the passer penalty nullified an interception thrown by Navasota’s relief QB.
After another Pirate punt with the score at 27-14, the Rattler’s were saved by the whistle after a ball was thrown backwards by the Navasota QB to a receiver. The premature whistle erased what would have been a fumble recovery by Philip Krupa inside the 10-yard line. Instead, the play was blown dead by the ref’s whistle and could not be reversed.
Navasota was eventually forced to punt, but left RFHS with only a minute to score before the half. However, a big run by Chupe put the Pirates inside the 10. Three plays later, Chupe ran in a five yard TD at the halftime buzzer on fourth down. The last second TD put the score at 27-21.
RFHS received the second half kick and threatened to score as the offense drove into Rattler territory.
However, Ace Seibert was intercepted at the Navasota 11 yard line. The ball, intended for Cade Leal, was bobbled off the hands of Leal and popped upward into the grasp of a Navasota defensive back. It was a close verdict on the interception, but one that went in favor of the Rattlers.
RFHS returned the favor with an interception by Carsen Flores; his second game in a row with a pick.
Both teams then failed to pick up fourth down conversions as the scoreless quarter came to close. RFHS regained possession to end the quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, RFHS rumbled downfield and eventually scored on a tough one yard run by Wells to put the score at 28-27 with just under 10 minutes left.
RFHS’ lead disappeared quickly as Navasota connected on a 48 yard TD pass. The Rattlers went for two after and failed, giving them only a five-point advantage at 33-28.
After connecting on a big pass downfield from A. Seibert to Leal, Chupe took a run on fourth and 10 to the 1-yd-line. A. Seibert scored the next play on a QB sneak. After a failed two-point try, RFHS held a one-point advantage at 34-33.
As time dwindled, the RFHS defense needed one more stop to win the game. Unfortunately, Navasota gashed the Pirate defense on a 47-yard TD run with 1:40 remaining.
RFHS struggled to move the ball against the Navasota defense and did not manage the clock well in their final possession.
“We had a chance to win at the end there and ran out of time,” J. Seibert said. “I felt like I kind of managed our timeouts bad. If I could have that back, I’d do it (differently).”
On an incomplete pass from A. Seibert to Leal on fourth down, the Pirates season would come to an end in a 39-34 loss to area champion Navasota.
Offensively, A. Seibert was 3-7 passing with 42 yards and one interception. He also had one rush TD.
Leal, Wells, and Devan Phillips each caught one ball.
Wells was 22-94 yards rushing with two TD’s.
Altogether, Navasota finished with 297 yards rushing and 158 passing for a total of 455 yards.
The Pirates will graduate some key starters from their roster following the 2020 season.
On offense, fullback Wells was a three year starter. Receivers Leal and Kaden Harder were two year contributors. Center Christian Jolley started every game this season on the line.
On defense, two-year standout safety George Marable will be a tough loss for the Pirate secondary. Linebacker Bronnson Hutson was a starter for two years at inside linebacker. Linebacker Michael Gonzalez played a big role in the middle in his senior season. Linebacker Brayden Anderberg also started every game on the outside.
“Some of these guys I’ve been around for six years. Been watching some of them since 5th grade in youth sports,” said J. Seibert. “I love them. I’m so proud of what they’re going to become in life. Not what they’ve done to this point, but what they’re going to do after this because I know it’s going to be great.”
Looking forward, the Pirates will return most of their starters next season, returning seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters.