Raiders claim district championship

They hoisted the Beach Bowl Trophy one more time Friday night, and while that meant a great deal to the Navarre Raiders, it wasn’t all they came away with after blasting rival Gulf Breeze 47-7 at Dolphin Stadium.

The Raiders, ranked third in the state in the state in 6A and owners of a 9-0 record, are district champions for the first time since 2013, assuring themselves of a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Navarre finishes 3-0 in district play.

“It feels great, especially the way we won,” senior running back Hasaan Williams said. “It was a good team win.”

Navarre has played as a team all season, thriving off an explosive offense fueled by a powerful running attack and a defense that is fast and aggressive.

The Raiders are also strong on special teams and that much was evident just moments after the fans had settled into their seats. Michael Sandle fielded a kickoff at the start of the game and raced through the Dolphins’ defense for a 95-yard return. It was his second special teams touchdown of the year and gave Navarre a 6-0 lead.

Octavien Moyer caught a touchdown pass from Sage Chambers with 6:51 left for a 13-0 lead before Williams came through with his first touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run that was set up by Sandle’s punt return.

Navarre led 19-0 at the end of one quarter and never looked back, keeping possession of the Beach Bowl Trophy for the ninth consecutive year.

“It was a great win,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “We got the score on a kickoff return, had the good punt return and our defense was outstanding. Offensively, we did a really good of running and throwing the ball.”

Williams scored his second touchdown of the night with 11:47 left in the half and Sandle pushed the lead to 33-0 when he ran into the end zone untouched out of the wildcat formation.

Bo Hering stepped up on defense and returned an interception for a score to give Navarre a 40-0 lead. Caine Adamson capped the scoring with a touchdown run less than three minutes to play in the half.

Navarre, which came in having allowed 98, nearly came away with its third shutout of the year. But the Dolphins scored a touchdown in the final minute to ruin the bid.

“We work hard all week and we were motivated,” Hering said. “It’s amazing to win the trophy and district. It hasn’t really hit us yet.”

Inside the locker room after the game, the Raiders celebrated their accomplishments, which were finally beginning to sink in. But their mission isn’t done yet. They close the regular season with state-ranked Niceville next week.

“It’s big to win the district title. We’re definitely excited about it,” Walls said. “We’ll enjoy it and then get ready for a big game next week.”

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