Two big plays in the second half turned the tide in Navarre’s favor in a showdown with Choctaw Friday night.
The first swung the momentum. The second drove a dagger through the Indians’ victory hopes.
Nolan Garrett and Alex Gilchrist each blocked a punt and Josh Carter scored off both to help the Raiders roll to a 41-24 victory at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
“It’s one of the biggest plays in football and gave us a lot of momentum,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said.
The first was perhaps the biggest, especially with the seventh-ranked Raiders trailing the winless Indians 17-14 at the half.
Three minutes into the second half, the momentum shifted. James Segrest came through with a big third-down sack and Choctaw tried to quickly punt the ball away on fourth down.
It didn’t work. Garrett was able to get his hands on the ball and Carter scooped up the fumble and rumbled 35 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, the Indians with no hope of catching Carter before he reached the end zone to give the Raiders a 21-17 lead.
“Scoring is always good. I can’t say anything negative about that,” Carter said.
It was a run his brother, North Carolina running back Michael Carter, would be proud of.
“He’s going to hear all about it,” Carter said with a laugh. “I’m sure he already has, but if not, I’ll get the news to him.”
Carter scored his second touchdown when he recovered a punt in the end zone in the fourth.
Gilchrist thought maybe he would be the one to score off the second block, but in the end, it didn’t matter who scored as the Raiders improved to 3-0 and won for the 24th time in their last 25 regular-season games.
“It’s a family thing. We’re all out here trying to win a game,” Gilchrist said.
This was the first game for both teams in two weeks after the threat of Hurricane Irma wiped out last week’s action.
Walls said the layoff was a bit of a distraction but the Raiders overcame it.
Not that it was easy.
A 14-0 lead evaporated as the Indians scored off a couple of big plays and a field goal to take a 17-14 lead. Choctaw suddenly looked nothing like a team that entered the night 0-2.
The second half was a different story.
Sage Chambers connected on his third touchdown of the night on a 51-yard scoring strike to Dante Wright, who caught the ball in stride and strolled into the end zone for a 34-17 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
Chambers also hit Wright on an 18-yard pass in the first quarter and hooked up with Bryson Brewer on a 20-yard scoring strike in the second to overcome a rough start where he threw an interception on the second play of the game.
“All the love goes to the O line. They absolutely killed it,” Chambers said. “Everyone was doing their job. I’m very happy we came out with the win.”
Omari Green went over 100 yards for the third consecutive game and scored his sixth touchdown of the year in the final minute of the third for a 28-17 lead.
“We had a great second half and gave a great effort,” Walls said. “We knew Choctaw was tough and were better than their record. You have to play four quarters to beat them.”