Fate twists in wrong direction for Raiders

Fate twisted in the wrong direction for Navarre Friday night.

Down four and poised to score, the Raiders missed on a golden opportunity to take control against Chiles in the fourth quarter.

The ball was knocked out of Xayvion Thomas’ hands on a catch near the sideline.

The Timberwolves recovered the fumble and eventually turned it into points, stretching their lead over the Raiders to double digits.

Navarre never overcame the cruel twist of fate, losing this District 1-7A game 49-31 at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.

The loss left a homecoming crowd stunned and Navarre in a position that has become all too familiar during a challenging 2019 season. 

The four losses for the Raiders (4-4, 1-3) are the most since 2011.

“We’re always right behind the eight ball, Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “They scored first and we could never catch up. It seemed like when we’d get a little momentum, they had an answer.”

That includes in the fourth when momentum swung in favor of Chiles (4-3, 2-2) for good.

Jaden Rivera, riding the high of a breakout night, scored his second touchdown, using a gutsy second effort to push his way into the end zone.

It was 35-31 Chiles at that point and 9:55 still remained on the clock.

Bailey Huston came through with a big-time sack on the next drive for the Timberwolves, bringing West Virginia commit Garrett Greene to the ground for an 8-yard loss.

Chiles was forced to punt and it looked as if the ball was partially tipped. The short punt set up Navarre inside the 50. Two plays later, the Raiders lost the ball.

“It was right there. We’ve got to grab it,” Rivera said. “We have to work harder in practice on everything. Everyone has to step up. We can’t point fingers. It’s a loss on all of us.”

It didn’t help Chiles converted on third-and-23 and fourth-and-7 on the ensuing drive to ice the game.

An interception near the goal line on a throw by Marlon Courtney extended the lead to 49-31 with 1:22 remaining.

Greene, meanwhile, beat the Raiders time and again, eluding pressure, dodging tackles and making plays with his arm and his feet.

“It was a struggle getting him in the backfield,” defensive lineman Grady Kelly said. “He would roll out. It was something we couldn’t stop. As a D-line, we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback.”

Still, Navarre only trailed 14-7 after one quarter after Courtney’s 29-yard scoring strike to Rivera. Preston Penton’s field goal cut the lead to 14-10 with 10:17 to go in the half.

Later in the quarter, Courtney avoided several tackles as he navigated his way through the defense for a 13-yard touchdown run that put Navarre up 17-14 with 6:33 to go.

Greene’s touchdown run just before halftime gave Chiles a 21-17 lead at halftime.

Huston broke free for a 17-yard touchdown run in the third, slicing the Chiles lead to 28-24 with 6:33 left.

The Raiders trailed 35-24 going into the fourth. Rivera’s second touchdown gave them hope of a comeback win. Fate just wasn’t on the Raiders’ side.

A road game in Tallahassee against Leon Friday is next.

Bouncing back is critical if the Raiders are to save their fading postseason hopes. They were seventh in the first playoff poll last week. The top eight get in.

“It’s devastating. In the moment, it’s terrible. There are no words. It sucks,” Kelly said. “But we are going to get better. Come Monday, we’ll move on and get ready for the next one.”

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