The Navarre Raiders (3-1) are riding high after consecutive road wins against traditional football powers Pace and Niceville, but they must guard against overconfidence when they play at Pensacola Catholic.
The Crusaders are undefeated and ranked sixth in Class 3A. Despite its much smaller enrollment and lower class assignment, Catholic plays a schedule similar to Class 6A Navarre’s and managed to beat Pensacola 17-15 a week after the Tigers rallied for a 25-24 win against the Raiders. Catholic’s other wins have come against Choctawhatchee, Crestview and Gulf Breeze, all teams Navarre plays later this year.
The Raiders received two votes in the latest AP Florida High School Football Class 6A poll, tied for 14th. Navarre had one more vote than Pace, the only other area large school mentioned in the poll.
If the Raiders need a further reminder of the Crusaders’ ability, they need only review tape of year’s 43-24 Catholic win at Navarre.
The Crusaders field a prolific offense led by junior quarterback Cody Henry. He’s completed 58.8 percent of his passes (63 of 107) with two interceptions and four touchdowns, and he’s distributed the ball well. Running back Simon Smiley has been the Crusaders’ most productive receiver, gaining 123 yards on 11 catches. Ty Purifoy also has 11 receptions, good for 67 yards, David Akintonde has 10 grabs for 76 yards and Zack Allen has nine catches for 80 yards. Allen and Smiley have two of Henry’s four touchdown passes.
Smiley carries Catholic’s rushing load, with 321 yards and three scores on 84 carries (3.82 yards per carry).
Navarre’s defense has been its strength through the first four games of the season. Kody Kelly leads the Raiders with 35 total tackles, 24 unassisted, followed closely by Jessie Holmes (33 total, 16 unassisted) and Mason Mikul (31, 15). Cornerback Nick Benton has 15 total tackles, three interceptions, two fumbles caused and two recovered, and two blocked kicks. Elijah Appel, Gatlin Casey, Kelly and Boston Morgan also have interceptions for the Raiders. Christian Gill, Mikul, Dyllan Rogers and Will Robinson-Pettus each have sacked opposing quarterbacks.
Jacob Kendall hasn’t sacked the quarterback but has been credited with seven hurries and a tackle for loss; Morgan has five quarterback hurries.
The Raiders are proving the spread offense can produce a powerful ground attack. Navarre has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in four games, led by running backs Jay Warren (360 yards, 7.6 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns) and Johnny Robinson-Pettus (222, 8.2, 3) and quarterback Andrew Rieves (200, 8.3, 2).
Rieves is completing exactly half of his passes, 31 of 62, for 404 yards and four scores. He has three interceptions. Jordan Leggett has 13 receptions for 242 yards, an average of 18.6 yards per catch, with three touchdowns. Casey has seven catches for 37 yards and a score.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Gorecki-LeBeau Stadium, 3043 W. Scott St., Pensacola. The game will be broadcast on News Radio 1620 AM.