Comeback Kids! Raiders rally to knock off Niceville

Throw in the towel? No way.

Hit the panic button? Not a chance.

No, in the end it didn’t matter that Navarre trailed Niceville by 14 points at halftime. The Raiders remained calm and confident, and in the end, that mentality, combined with an unbreakable will to never stop battling, paid off as Navarre rallied for a 42-28 win over the Eagles on the road Friday night.

“We were down by two touchdowns and our locker room…you need to see how we are at halftime,” senior running back Michael Carter said. “Yes, we game plan, we make corrections and stuff but we are never panicking.”

It would have been easy for Navarre to fold up shop in this regular-season finale against Niceville on a mild November evening at Eagle Stadium.

Stunned a week ago by rival Gulf Breeze at home – the 31-28 loss cost the Raiders a District 2-6A title and a shot at a second consecutive perfect regular season — Navarre found itself trailing 28-14 at the half, thanks in part to the Eagles capitalizing twice on turnovers deep in Raider territory to build a double-digit advantage.

Rather than allow their confidence to be rattled, the Raiders leaned on past experience.

They were down by seven to Choctaw on the road in September and trailed Escambia by 10 on the road last month. In both instances the Raiders (9-1) rallied for a victory, shutting out both teams in the second half in the process.

They used the same formula against the Eagles (8-2), getting more pressure on the quarterback, coming up big on third-down situations and eliminating big-play opportunities.

They also struck quickly out of the locker room. Caine Adamson delivered two big touchdown throws, hitting Jordan Williams on a 20-yard scoring strike and connecting with Carter on a 40-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes later to tie the score at 28-28 with 7:59 remaining in the third quarter.

Williams leaped up over the defender in the right corner of the end zone for his fifth TD catch of the year and Carter caught his pass in the middle of the field before using his speed to outrun the defense to the end zone.

Navarre took the lead for good with just over seven minutes left in the game when Carter pushed his way to pay dirt from 4 yards out to give the Raiders a 35-28 advantage. The go-ahead score was set up by Sage Chambers’ 75-yard pass to Dante Wright, who caught the ball in stride and juked a defender before running down the sideline and nearly scoring.

Carter sealed the deal on the win with 1:34 to go, scoring on a 19-yard run. The defense did its part by forcing two missed field goals and getting a crucial stop on fourth down late in the game.

“It was an outstanding job by our defense,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “Niceville has a great team and big-play ability. We made adjustments and gave a great effort.”

Navarre now heads to the postseason where it will get a rematch with Escambia. The Raiders topped the Gators 17-13 in their last meeting a month ago in Pensacola. This game will be on the road as well and marks the beginning of the Raiders’ quest for the first state title in program history.

Carter said he and his teammates have only begun to scratch the surface of their potential.

“We haven’t reached our peak yet. Not even close,” Carter said. “We’re working hard every week to reach our potential.”

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