Raiders struggle with momentum in loss to Eagles

Navarre Raiders head coach Jay Walls stood outside the visiting locker room late Friday night and said to himself that ‘we have to get better.’ 

Those words summed up the night a difficult night that ended with the Raiders falling 24-6 to Pine Forest. It’s their second consecutive loss.

Not since 2014 has Navarre lost back-to-back games. And for the first time in five years, the Raiders failed to score a touchdown in a game.

Mistakes proved to hurt Navarre the most at Lon Wise Stadium in Pensacola on the first fall-like evening of the 2019 season.

Sometimes it was a penalty. Other times, the Raiders gave up a big play.

Either way it killed momentum.

“Every time we seemed to get something going, there was a penalty for something,” Walls said. “Something happened that kind of knocked the wind out of us,”

Including at halftime. Trailing 10-0, the Raiders (3-2) had 1:11 on the clock and a touchdown on their mind.

Marlon Courtney connected with Trent Hall, who sprinted down the Navarre sideline, made the catch and bolted 53 yards to put the Raiders inside the 30-yard line of the Eagles.

It looked as if Hall was going to score on the next play, but a Pine Forest defender, despite seemingly grabbing Hall as the two went stride for stride, avoided being called for pass interference. 

An illegal procedure, a sack and two incomplete passes left the Raiders with no choice but to kick a field goal. Preston Penton nailed it from 38 yards out, one of two he hit on the night.

The Raiders went into halftime down 10-3 but not feeling as if they were out of the game.

“We felt good. To be honest, I felt good at the end of the game. We always have a chance to come back no matter what,” senior wide receiver Tyler England said. “If we keep playing like we play, we can win any game. We just have to finish. We need to play all four quarters.”

The final two quarters looked as if they’d go differently, at least early on as the Raiders came out with more energy.

Kobe Johnson delivered a big hit on a Pine Forest receiver. It looked clean but a ref threw a flag and two plays later the Eagles (2-2) punched it in for a 17-3 lead. 

Penton hit another 38-yard field goal with 7:40 to go in the third, cutting the lead to 17-6 before the Eagles closed out the quarter with a 34-yard run by Ladarius Clardy, extending the Pine Forest lead to 24-6.

“They are a good team. When you make a mistake, a good team is going to capitalize on that,” Walls said. 

Still, despite the loss to end a three-game road swing, the Raiders have no time to let the sting of defeat continue to take breaths. 

Niceville comes to town next week for a District 1-7A game. The Eagles are undefeated.

And the season is far from over.

“We need to move on and get ready for Niceville,” Walls said. “I saw them play last week. They are a good football team. They have always been good. It’s district play. The district race is wide open. We have a lot to play for.”

England is ready to turn things around and help the get Raiders back on track.

“We all need to step up. I have a feeling come next week, we will,” England said.

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