Winning makes everything better. And for the first time in nearly a month, the Navarre Raiders experienced the thrill of victory.
They brought their longest losing streak in a decade to an end Friday night.
A 10-0 win over Tate at Pete Grindl Stadium in Cantonment ended the slide at three.
The players savored the moment of a weight being lifted off their shoulders after the game, embracing, taking photos with family members and gathering together in front of the band to sing the alma mater.
The shutout is the first for Navarre since a 34-0 win over Pace in week two.
Senior defensive lineman Paul Schultz loved that part of it. He spent his night helping to put pressure on the quarterback.
“Winning this game was great. Getting a shutout felt even better,” Schultz said.
Senior defensive back Kobe Johnson loved the shutout, too. He helped preserve it, picking off a pass at the goal line late in the third quarter.
“The best part about shutout is not having to run sprints on Monday at the end of practice,” Johnson said.
Caught in the grip of the longest losing streak for the program since 2009, the Raiders needed this one to regain momentum and bolster their confidence, and of course, notch their first District 1-7A win.
“I hope we realize we can win and we can be successful,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “We came and won a good game on the road. We worked hard this week and I hope they learn that hard work does pay off.”
Navarre (4-3, 1-2) rolled to a 60-28 second-round playoff win over Tate (1-5, 0-4) the last time these two teams met.
While this wasn’t win or go home, every game at this point is sort of like a playoff game for the Raiders.
There is little room for error now in their quest to punch a ticket to the postseason for the eighth consecutive year. Navarre’s strength of schedule is keeping it in the hunt.
“This is my senior year. We are trying to do something special here,” senior quarterback Marlon Courtney said
Navarre ate up nearly six minutes of the first-quarter clock during its first drive of the game. Courtney walked into the end zone on fourth-and-1 to put Navarre up 7-0.
Preston Penton missed a field goal with 56 seconds left in the opening half.
He made up for it with 5:16 left in the third, connecting from 23 yards out.
Although Navarre only scored one touchdown for the second consecutive game, the offense looked different because of its ability to run the football. The Raiders controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock, attacking the Aggies with different players out of the backfield.
“It makes a big difference when you are ahead of the chains, not having to beat the chains and the defense,” Walls said. “It was a good effort tonight for sure.”
By running the ball effectively, the Raider defense had more time to rest and its effectiveness showed as it repeatedly swarmed to the ball and brought pressure.
Tate had a chance to cut into the lead late in the fourth. The Raiders held their ground, forcing the Aggies to turn it over on downs inside the red zone with a few minutes left in the game.
“I felt as a defense that we rallied when we faced adversity,” Johnson said.
The next challenge is Chiles. The Timberwolves (3-3, 0-2) come to town for Homecoming next Friday at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
“It defenitely feels good to bounce back with a win against a good opponent (tonight), but in my opinion, we have to put it behind us,” Courtney said. “We want to go 1-0 every day and finish off Friday 1-0.”
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