Losing a playoff game hurts.
Tears and long embraces among the Navarre Raiders followed a 49-27 loss to Crestview in the Region 1-6A championship game on a chilly and wet Friday evening at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
Despite the loss, the Raiders (11-2) are holding their heads high.
“It’s tough to lose a playoff game your senior year,” senior Josh Carter said. “But I can’t be upset. I’m happy our team came out and played their hearts out. We have nothing to be sad about, nothing to hang our heads on.”
Mistakes and a scoreless fourth quarter doomed the Raiders.
Still, as difficult of a loss as this was, Navarre head coach Jay Walls praised his team for its effort. He also gave credit to the Bulldogs (10-2), who shook off an early 13-0 deficit to earn the win.
“We did well, at times really well, but we made some mistakes in the second half and it got away from us,” Walls said. “But credit to them. They are a good football team. I’m proud of our kids. They never quit. We had a great season.”
Ahead 27-21 going into the fourth, the Raiders snagged the lead before the third ended on a play that looked like it was going nowhere.
Scrambling to his left and under pressure, Dante Wright stayed on his feet and hit Quinn Caballero on a 10-yard scoring strike. Caballero dove and made the catch in the back of the end zone.
With 8:08 left, Crestview took the lead. Jay Stanton scored to give the Bulldogs a 28-27 edge..
Navarre tried to answer.
But Marlon Courtney, who came out of the game late in the third after running in a 2-point conversion after Caballero’s touchdown, was picked off on the first play back from getting checked out.
The Bulldogs scored three more times to ice the win.
Courtney spent most of the fourth on the bench in pain. He injured his shoulder and did not return. The Raiders were never the same after giving up the lead.
“They had a lot of momentum in the fourth quarter,” Walls said.
The Raiders rallied rallied from a 28-0 halftime deficit the last time they played the Bulldogs and won 41-35 in overtime.
Navarre looked like a much different team out of the gate this time, starting off with a lead.
The Raiders went in front 13-0 and had momentum on their side.
Courtney scored on a 3-yard run on the Raiders’ opening drive and Chris Williams carved up the defense on a 21-yard run with 3:42 left in the first.
Navarre’s defense held a high-powered Bulldogs offense to just seven first-half points and led 13-7.
A wild third quarter followed, starting with Stanton giving Crestview a 14-13 lead on the opening drive of the second half.
Navarre responded with Tyler England’s clutch diving catch in the end zone to put the Raiders up 19-14. Navarre went for two but didn’t convert.
Down 21-19 with 6:26 left after another Stanton touchdown, Wright hit Caballero on the thrilling scoring play with 4:06 remaining in the quarter.
Navarre couldn’t get anything going in the fourth as its quest for a state title came to an end.
“Only one team is going to end this whole thing happy. That’s the playoffs. It’s do or die,” Walls said.