Raiders rally past Indians

Brady Hammel wasn’t sure if he would get a shot a redemption or if Navarre would get its long-awaited revenge against Choctaw.

The senior kicker missed an extra-point attempt early in the fourth quarter Friday night, leaving the Raiders trailing the Indians by a point, 14-13,  in a pivotal non-district showdown between state-ranked teams.

With 1:29 to play, Hammel stepped onto the field once again, this time with the game on the line.

Rather than crack under pressure, the senior was money in the moment, drilling a 27-yard game-winning field goal, nudging the eighth-ranked Raiders in front for good as the fans roared and music blared.

The defense did the rest.

Michael Sandle picked off a pass, and after the Navarre offense turned the ball over on downs with five seconds left, the Raiders made one last defensive stand to preserve the thrilling 16-14 win over the ninth-ranked Indians at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.

“I had to brush off (the miss),” Hammel said. “It frustrated me but my teammates stayed with me. They gave me everything I needed to give us a victory.”

The kick was Hammel’s first game-winner.

“I had confidence I could do it,” Hammel said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

The odds seemed stacked against Navarre (4-0) going into this highly-anticipated showdown against a Choctaw team that has sent the Raiders packing in the postseason in each of the last two years. Star running back Michael Carter had surgery Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his knee, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

Some wondered if Navarre could overcome the loss. The Raiders made it clear they could, grinding out a win with a tremendous defensive effort and just enough offense.

Aaron Mitchell gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter but the Indians (2-2) went in front 14-7 at halftime, marking the first time all season Navarre has trailed in a game.

The defense, relentless throughout, bent several times in the second half but did not break, even coming up with a goal-line stand.

The Indians, who had scored 30 or more points in each of their first three games, failed to score in the second half.

“Our defense did a great job in the second half. They left it all on the field,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “They got after it.”

Tommy Leggett  caught a touchdown pass with 9;37 to go, pulling the Raiders within one. His brother, Jordan, a star tight end at Clemson, greeted him in the end zone.

“That meant the world to me,” Leggett said. “This whole game was wild. I can’t even put it into words.”

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett, a Navarre grad, watches the game from the sideline with the Raiders' Michael Carter.

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett, a Navarre grad, watches the game from the sideline with the Raiders’ Michael Carter.

What the Raiders can do, though, is take pride in making a statement, earning their first win over the Indians in two years.

“It was a big game,” Walls said. “It should give us a lot of confidence in tight games. I’m proud of this football team.”

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