Navarre High School’s football Raiders are taking a well-deserved break this week, mending wounds and enjoying a 5-1 start that has them poised for a postseason run with three of their last four games at home.
Three other District 2 Class 6A teams also are idle tonight. The Crestview Bulldogs and Big Green Indians of Choctawhatchee will have the district spotlight to themselves when they kick off at 7 p.m. tonight at Choctaw’s Joe Etheredge Stadium in Fort Walton Beach.
Both teams are 2-4 overall, while Choctawhatchee is 1-1 and Crestview is 0-1 in District 2-6A action. Neither team will be eliminated from the playoff chase, but a loss will shrink their chances.
Fort Walton Beach and Navarre, with identical 5-1, 2-0 marks, have emerged as favorites to take the district’s two playoff spots. Navarre will host the Vikings on Oct. 26 at Bennett C. Russell Stadium in a game that could decide the district championship.
The Raiders played four of its first six games on the road, including four straight at traditional powers Pensacola, Pace, Niceville and Pensacola Catholic. Navarre’s only loss came at Pensacola in the season’s second week. Raiders’ penalties and turnovers helped the Tigers rally in the fourth-quarter for a 25-24 win.
Navarre easily defeated Washington and Catholic, built comfortable leads and survived late rallies at Pace and Niceville, and survived its own homecoming with a 21-17 come-from-behind win against Choctaw last week.
“We’ve had a good run the first part of the season,” first-year Navarre coach Jay Walls said in published reports earlier this week. “Getting this open week couldn’t have come at a better time. I hope if we have any momentum, we don’t lose it.
“Hopefully we can continue to do well. Our whole thing is we don’t want our kids to be satisfied. We still have a lot of ball to play and 5-1 was not a goal at the beginning of the year.”
The Raiders will play their final road game of the regular season beginning at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 in Crestview. Navarre will finish the season at Bennett C. Russell Stadium with district foes Fort Walton Beach and Mosley and arch-rival Gulf Breeze.
The Maroon and Black has scored an average of 26.3 points and allowed 15 points per game. The Raiders’ offense starts with the run – the team has racked up 1,613 yards and 14 scores on 214 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry – but has developed an efficient passing attack as well (725 yards and 8 touchdowns).
Senior running back Jay Warren is among the area’s rushing leaders with 737 yards and six touchdowns in 92 carries. Johnny Robinson-Pettus is averaging almost 9 yards per carry (287 yards and 4 touchdowns on 32 carries) and quarterback Andrew Rieves (271 yards, 2 touchdowns, 6.7 yards per carry) have been productive, while cornerback/running back/kick returner Nick Benton leads the team with 11.3 yards per carry (13 for 148 and 1 score).
Rieves, who played linebacker a year ago, has completed 55 percent of his passes (52 of 93) for 713 yards, 8 scores and 4 interceptions. His efficiency has improved in recent games after a shaky start.
“Last year, I was on defense,” Rieves explained after the Crestview game. “Coming back to play quarterback (after presumptive starter Robby Miller was injured in spring practice), I wasn’t used to the speed of the linebackers and cornerbacks. I worked on timing with my receivers through the summer, but it still wasn’t where it needed to be. I think I’m playing better as my timing improves.”
Eleven receivers have caught passes for the Raiders, but 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Leggett, who has committed verbally to play football for Clemson University, has been Rieves’ favorite target. Leggett has 27 catches for 481 yards and 6 touchdowns. Casey Gatlin has the next highest receptions total with seven.
The defense has been the Raiders’ foundation all season. Navarre has yielded 169 total yards per game, stopping 63 percent of opponents’ third-down tries and a whopping 90 percent of their fourth-down attempts.
Linebacker Jessie Holmes leads Navarre in total tackles with 55, 26 of those unassisted, and Mason Mikul has 51 with 27 unassisted. Kody Kelly has a team-high 30 unassisted tackles and 44 stops total.
Benton has three of the Raiders’ eight interceptions, two blocked kicks, two fumbles caused and two recovered, and 31 total tackles, 21 unassisted.
Christian Gill has four of Navarre’s 11 quarterback sacks and four quarterback hurries and Jacob Kendall has eight hurries and two tackles for lost yardage.
Fort Walton Beach 2-0 5-1
Navarre 2-0 5-1
Choctawhatchee 1-1 2-4
Niceville 1-2 4-3
Crestview 0-1 2-4
Mosley 0-2 3-3
Week 6 results
Niceville 42, Mosley10
Fort Walton Beach 21, Crestview17
Navarre 21, Choctawhatchee 17
Crestview at Choctawhatchee, 7 p.m.
Fort Walton Beach idle
Fort Walton Beach at Niceville, 7 p.m.
Mosley at Choctawhatchee, 7 p.m.
Navarre at Crestview, 7 p.m.