Raiders roll in district opener

Another perfect September. Another road win. And, of course, a strong start to the quest for a District 2-6A championship.

A back-and-forth battle in the first half, Navarre dominated Pace in the final two quarters to earn a 49-30 win on a humid Friday night.

The fifth-ranked Raiders (6-0) took their first step towards their sixth district title in program history. They also won their 17th consecutive regular season game away from home.

Navarre capped its fifth consecutive perfect September as well, running its streak in the ninth month of the year to 22.

The Raiders knew they were in for a fight against Pace (4-2).

A three-win team a year ago, the Patriots came in having won their last two and playing with confidence. They had leads of 3-0, 10-7 and 17-14 in the first half.

But on the strength of a 54-yard sweep by Dante Wright down the right sideline with 6:35 left, the Raiders surged ahead 21-17 at halftime.

“They are a good football team and have the best running back in the area (Damean Bivens), and I’m proud of the way our guys kept grinding, especially early on,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “They had momentum and our kids kept playing.”

But that’s what Navarre does. It plays like tomorrow isn’t promised.

Chris Williams is the perfect example. He’s up over 500 yards for the year and churned out his third 100-yard game while scoring three touchdowns, including on a 30-yard run in the third quarter moments after Josh Carter shook off nearly the entire Pace team for a 40-yard gain off a fake punt. 

An illegal block call moved the ball back the 30 and Williams bulldozed through the defense for the touchdown and a 35-17 lead.

Williams has scored seven touchdowns in what has turned into a special senior season. He had just three touchdowns in 2017.

“It’s about always having faith. It’s just a blessing right now. Everything is magical right now,” Williams said.

The Raiders owned the second half on both sides of the ball.

The Patriots scored twice late in the fourth to make the score a little closer than it really was. Keeping Bivens in check helped.

“We came out in the second half and dominated,” defensive linemen Jordan Jefferson said. “We were a whole different team. We did what we needed to do to get the win.”

Tyler England added two touchdowns in the win, both off receptions, as his breakout season rolls on.

Next up is a showdown with Escambia Friday at Emmitt Smith Field.

“That’s a tough one. They are really good. That’s a big game,” Walls said.

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