By Brian Lester
Pouring rain and lighting delayed the start of Navarre’s season opener Friday night against Dothan.
But that was about all that slowed down the Raiders, who shook off the 90-minute delay and a slow start offensively to roll to a 43-22 win over the Tigers at Rip Hewes Stadium in Alabama.
For the Raiders, who have been waiting more than nine months to play a game that matters, the victory was sweet.
“To win on the road early in the year is really big,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “We had to deal with the distractions, the storm, the lightning, a bus breaking down, but I’m proud of our guys. We worked hard and it showed tonight.”
Kickoff was delayed until shortly after 8:30 p.m. as dark storm clouds rolled over the stadium and unleashed a downpour where the rain was blowing across the field. Flashes of lightning lit up the sky as well as the fans and teams took shelter until the weather cleared.
It didn’t take long for Navarre to get the ball rolling once the action got underway as first-year varsity player Aaron Mitchell scored on a touchdown run to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.
The junior talked about the feeling of scoring the first points inside a jubilant locker room.
“It was my first varsity game and I was stunned I had the open field and green grass in front of me to run that touchdown in,” Mitchell said. “It was a great feeling.”
Mitchell was part of a diverse and balanced offensive attack that thrived behind an offensive line that pushed hard and persevered throughout the night despite missing two starters. Starting center Brent Short had a lot to do with the effort up front and was exhausted after the game.
Star running back Michael Carter did his usual thing, picking up where he left off last season as he scored on three touchdown runs.
But Octavien Moyer also scored a touchdown and Hasaan Williams picked up a fumble and ran it in for the final score of the night as Navarre dominated the Dothan defense.
Sage Chambers and Caine Adamson both saw time at quarterback and handled their roles well by taking care of the football.
The defense also did its job, playing physical right out of the gate and refusing to back down. They limited the Tigers’ scoring opportunities and set the Raiders up with solid field position most of the night.
Michael Sandle helped lead the way on defense, picking off a pass in the opening quarter.
“We got the ball in a bunch of players’ hands,” Walls said. “I also thought the defense played really good early. They made a couple of big plays on us, but we were physical on defense.”
The Raiders have made no secrets about the fact that they want to win a state championship this season. This win is the first step toward that goal. The next is a home opener against Pensacola Catholic Friday night.
For now, the Raiders will savor the thrill of starting off the season on a high note.
“Nothing feels better than getting that first win,” Mitchell said. “We’ve spent a lot of time in practice, in two-a-days, in workouts, and it feels good to have all the work pay off with a win.”