Raiders blank Panthers in district showdown

Jay Klosinski was given a golden opportunity to make a big play Friday night against Milton and he didn’t let it slip through his fingers.

The Navarre senior linebacker picked off a pass in the closing seconds of the opening half and ran it back for a touchdown, putting the exclamation mark on a 35-0 victory over the Panthers in a District 2-6A showdown at Hurley Manning Field in Milton.

“I thought I was going to drop it,” Klosinski said. “It was the best moment of my life. I have to give a shout-out to the entire defense. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Once the ball was in his hands, he knew he was going to score, following the blocks down the left sideline. His touchdown gave the Raiders a 35-point advantage as time expired.

“I tell everyone, if you put the ball in my hands, I’m scoring no matter what,” Klosinski said. “I wasn’t going down. It was so awesome. I loved it.”

It was another statement-making night for the aggressive and fast Navarre defense.

The Raiders (8-0, 2-0) consistently put pressure on the Milton quarterback and rarely gave up big plays on the ground as they nailed down their second shutout of the season. The Raiders have allowed only 98 points this season.

“To get a shutout in district play is outstanding,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “The kids played well. They gave a great effort.”

The Raiders, ranked fifth in the state, came into the showdown against the Panthers facing adversity. Running back Aaron Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 20-9 win over Escambia.

Mitchell is the second running back the Raiders have lost this sesaon. Michael Carter went down with a knee injury last month.

Yet, this team has found a way to move forward, thriving off a next-man-up-mentality. Navarre made it known early it wasn’t going to miss a beat.

Navarre needed only two plays to score against the Panthers (5-3, 0-2). Hasaan Williams put the Raiders on the board when he ran through a huge hole in the middle of the field and sprinted 70 yards for the score.

Caine Adamson’s screen pass to Michael Sandle covered 76 yards in the second quarter, giving the Raiders a 14-0 advantage with 10:49 to play.

Tyler Rebber’s 2-yard run stretched the Navarre lead to 21-0 before Williams scored for the second time on the night, pushing straight ahead on a 3-yard run for a 28-0 lead. Williams rushed for 139 yards in the opening half to help fuel the offense while Rebber stepped up and did a nice job filling for Mitchell as the offense put up 35 or more points for the sixth time.

Meanwhile, the defense has now held six opponents to 20 points and has given up only nine points in the last two weeks.

Navarre has held five opponents to less than 20 points while scoring 40 or more five times. The Raiders can win the district championship in two weeks when they play at Gulf Breeze.

For now, they will savor their latest win.

“It feels great,” Klosinski said. “But we work hard all week. We’re the hardest working team in the Panhandle. I promise you that. It shows on the field.”

 

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