MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — It’s been four years since the Georgia Military College football team has begun its season 1-0.
The Navarro College Bulldogs have played the role of hurdle to GMC head coach Bert Williams’ squad when it comes to starting a campaign on the right foot, but that changed Thursday night on Davenport Field.
The NJCAA Top 20 matchup gave fans five lead changes throughout the second half, and it was the preseason No. 19 GMC Bulldogs (1-0) who found themselves up once the clock hit all zeroes as they defeated No. 18 Navarro (0-1) 33-30.
Thursday’s narrow margin of victory marks the fourth time in five years that the season opener between GMC and Navarro has been decided by a touchdown or less. Several home ‘Dogs made big plays down the stretch to clinch the victory.
Take, for instance, GMC freshman starting quarterback Damekus Taylor. Navarro took a 30-26 lead with only 2:39 left in the fourth, making it seem like the Texas program might steal the win late just like in last season’s meeting. Taylor, a Thomson High School graduate, and the offense took over on their own 17-yard line with just the 2:39 remaining. After scrambling for a couple of first downs to get shallow into enemy territory, Taylor laid a beautiful pass out for his sophomore wideout Torenio Davis who had his man beat, not by feet, but yards. Davis hauled the ball in before being tackled inside Navarro’s 10 to set his team up nicely.
“I just knew we had to move fast and we needed to get into the end zone. I saw the defense come up and press, so I knew I could go over the top and get them,” the QB Taylor said of the go-ahead drive and big play to Davis.
Davis did not have many catches on the night, but he did help his team out in other ways by drawing a couple of defensive pass interference calls. He and the Navarro secondary had been exchanging words all night, and it was the 6-foot, 4-inch GMC wideout who got the last laugh.
Soon after the big Taylor toDavis connection, running back Tye Edwards, another freshman, rumbled into the end zone from about 5 yards out to give GMC the 33-30 advantage with just over a minute to play. It was his second scoring rush of the night after having busted loose for a 64-yard touchdown dash that gave the host Bulldogs their first lead in the third quarter.
Coach Williams’ team wasn’t quite done with the big plays. On the ensuing kickoff, freshman kicker Ashton Musgrove popped up the ball up shallow toward the visitors’ sideline. The lofted kick was mishandled by two Navarro players, and eventually fallen on by a GMC Bulldog. The home offense returned to the field one final time to kneel out the clock and cement the program’s first 1-0 start since 2015.
Musgrove had a solid night kicking the football, going 3-for-4 on field goals with a couple 40-plus yarders.
After the two teams shook hands, Williams told his players they have some things to work on, but ultimately commended them for sticking it out and to get the win.
Navarro’s usually pass-happy offense started the night conservatively, but on its second offensive drive they unleashed 2018 NJCAA All-American quarterback Parker McNeil. The tall redshirt sophomore did a good job of getting the ball out quickly almost all night as he was only sacked once. He finished the ballgame with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and one interception.
The GMC football team has a couple days to enjoy the win before preparations begin for the week two matchup at Nassau Community College in New York. Navarro has a much shorter road trip on its schedule as its next game is set for Kilgore College in Texas.