Highlights not in short supply in Raiders’ season-opening win over Crusaders

Omari Green and Dante Wright both scored three touchdowns. Chris Williams found the end zone a couple of times. Cade Taylor and Bryson Brewer picked off passes.

It was no doubt a night of highlights for the Navarre Raiders in their season opener against Pensacola Catholic Friday at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.

But there is still work to do. The offense made some mistakes and missed opportunities. The defense gave up big plays.

Ultimately, all that mattered was that the Raiders outscored the Crusaders, securing a 56-35 victory on a muggy August evening.

“A win is a win. We’ll take it,” senior linebacker Cade Taylor said. “We played good, we played hard, we played physical. The big thing is we fought to the end. We’ll get better. It’s the first game. It’s not always pretty.”

The Raiders and Crusaders went back and forth at times, finding themselves tied at 14-14 late in the second quarter. But ninth-ranked Navarre closed the half on a high note after a one-handed interception by Taylor with under a minute left. Green pushed into the end zone on a 5-yard run for a 28-14 lead at halftime. Less than three minutes earlier Williams scored on a 4-yard run to erase the tie.

Catholic thrived off big plays throughout the night and got as close as seven twice in the second half. Three rushing touchdowns by Dante Wright helped keep the Raiders a step ahead of the Crusaders.

Wright and Green rushed for over 100 yards. Williams nearly went for 100 as well as the offense put its versatility and depth on display.

“We tried to spread the ball around,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “We would have liked to throw the ball more, but we had big plays in the running game and stuck with what was working.”

Walls expects the passing game to develop as time rolls on. After all, Navarre has an experienced quarterback in Sage Chambers.

For now, the Raiders are thankful they survived a stern test against a much-improved Catholic team. As Walls told his players in the locker room, the only thing the win guarantees is that they won’t go 0-10. And that’s good news for a Raiders team with state championship aspirations.

“Catholic is a very good team and I’m proud of my kids. They didn’t quit and neither did Catholic,”  said Walls, who won his 51st game as the head coach of the Raiders. “It was a heck of a ball game for week one. It was a great effort by our team.”

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