Navarre suffers painful ending to football season

Losing in the postseason hurts.

That was evident as ever late Friday night at Bennett C. Russell Stadium. It was there that Navarre’s postseason journey came to an end.

Despite a gutsy second-half effort, the Raiders fell 35-21 to Buchholz in a 7A regional quarterfinal.

With reality hitting in the final minutes that the 2020 season was about to end, players exchanged hugs. A few tears were shed as well.

Little went right in the first half. The offense struggled to get on track while the defense was burned by big plays. That led to Navarre (6-1) going into halftime down 28-7.

But the Raiders nearly rallied in the second half. They made it a two-score game with just over eight minutes to play when Jason Deal connected with Trent Hall in the end zone on a 23-yard scoring strike.

The Raider defense came alive as well but an interception with 2:14 to go ended the comeback bid.

“We came out (in the second) half and started playing football like we have all year. We just needed a little more time. That’s all,” senior running back Jaden Rivera said.

Several times during a post-game interview, and in the locker room with his team afterwards, Raider head coach Jay Walls paused to fight back tears.

This one hit different for him.

“I’ll tell ya what, our kids did not quit,” Walls said. “We were in the ball game. We had some opportunities. I’m proud of our second-half effort. We had good effort in the first half. We just didn’t play well.”

Navarre Raiders

Navarre trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. It was staring up at a 21-0 deficit with 6:30 left in the half.

Jebari Mitchell made a 53-yard touchdown catch in stride to slice the Bobcat lead to 21-7. But another big scoring play gave Buchholz a 28-7 cushion at halftime.

The Raiders didn’t help their cause with back-to-back turnovers early in the third quarter. The Bobcats (8-1) stretched their lead to 35-7 when Derek Percivalle initially broke up a pass play only to see the ball fall back into the hands of the receiver.

“We couldn’t catch a break in this game,” Walls said.

Still, in a year where it wasn’t even for certain there would be a football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raiders were thankful they had an opportunity to play.

“This team, of all the teams, as been a special team,” senior linebacker Connor Eastwood said. “I truly believe we could have went all the way to state. Tonight, we just didn’t have it.”

Check out more postseason coverage in the Nov. 26 edition of the Navarre Press.

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