Bryson Navallo has been battling through injuries all season long.
But that didn’t stop The Meadows’ senior running back from putting up one of his biggest games when the team needed it most.
Navallo had 30 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns to help the Mustangs to a 21-14 home victory over Agassi Prep. The win moved them into first place in the Division III Southern League.
“I’m exhausted, but I’m so happy,” Navallo said. “We knew this was gong to be the biggest game of the year. We performed, and all the hard work over the summer really paid off.”
Trailing 7-6 after three quarters, The Meadows (6-2, 5-0) scored twice in the fourth quarter to defeat the Stars (5-2, 4-1).
Navallo ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the first half as the Mustangs took a 6-0 lead into the break.
“He ran hard,” The Meadows coach Frank DeSantis said. “He had a bad ankle earlier in the year, but he’s coming back and running hard. He’s a great runner, and big-time players play big in big games.”
The Stars responded on Kobe Williams’ 15-yard TD run to take a 7-6 lead in the third quarter. Williams finished with 96 yards on 10 carries for Agassi Prep.
The Meadows then put together its own long drive and scored midway through the fourth quarter on a 1-yard TD run by Navallo. Quarterback Jacob Gleason connected with Nathan DeVera on the 2-point conversion to make it 14-7.
DeSantis and Navallo each credited the offensive line for taking over late in the game and allowing the Mustangs to reclaim the lead and control the clock. The Meadows held the ball for all but 21 seconds of the final 12:18 of the game.
“I have to thank Max Hisatake, Mark Woodson, Sam Chami, Shahraiz Akbar and Dominic Pallares,” Navallo said. “They are the heart of the team. They keep us going and open up the holes, and they were definitely there today.”
The Meadows caught a break on a late kickoff when the ball bounced off an Agassi Prep player and was recovered by the Mustangs at the Stars’ 49-yard line. DeVera pushed the lead to 21-7 with 0:45 remaining after scoring from 11 yards out on fourth down.
Despite being down by two scores, the Stars still had some fight. Quarterback Kameron Burrell hooked up with Zeivaun Ned on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 0:13 remaining, but Ethan Fridman recovered the Stars’ onside kick to preserve the win.
While the Mustangs are poised to claim their first division crown since 2009, DeSantis said the Southern League title doesn’t belong to his team yet. He pointed to a big road game on Oct. 30.
“We have two games left,” he said. “Needles is a very good team, and we have to go down there, so nothing is settled yet.”