Defeating Niceville on the road is special. The Navarre Raiders did it in convincing fashion Friday night, hammering the Eagles 38-13 on a cold November evening at Eagle Stadium.
Navarre ends the regular season at 9-1 and is poised to earn the right to host the first three rounds of the Region 1-6A playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The bracket comes out Sunday.
But the Raiders planned to enjoy this win before getting back to work for what they hope is a memorable playoff journey.
“It was really good to win this game,” running back Chris Williams said. “This was the last (regular-season) game of our senior year. We just wanted to have a little fun, you know.”
Navarre sprinted in front 21-0 at halftime and extended the lead to 28-0 just 13 seconds into the third quarter.
These two programs have been models of consistency. The Raiders are headed for their seventh consecutive trip to the playoffs. The Eagles are on their way to their 18th.
“Niceville has a great program. To come over here and get a win is pretty special,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “I’m really proud of our kids, our coaches, everybody.”
A balanced attack and a tenacious defense proved key for Navarre.
Dante Wright provided the biggest spark on offense, exploding for three big plays.
His highlight of the first half was a 42-yard run on a play that started out looking as if he was going to throw a touchdown pass. Wright took off, shaking the defense before bruising a defender as he burst across the goal line.
Wright scored again on the opening drive of the second half.
Marlon Courtney hit him on a short pass over the middle that Wright turned into a 67-yard touchdown. He ran away from the defense down the right sideline to put the Raiders in front 28-0.
Wright also scored as time expired in the third quarter, outrunning the entire Niceville defense on a 75-yard pass play and giving Navarre a 35-13 lead heading into the fourth.
Walls wasn’t surprised.
“He’s been that way for a long time. It’s good to see him do it late in the season,” Walls said.
Navarre rolled up more than 400 yards for the sixth time and shut out an opponent in at least one half for the fifth time.
Courtney scored on a 1-yard run with 3:04 left in the first and Williams ran 9 yards for a score with 4:16 to go in the half.
Kevin Taich drilled a 45-yard field goal to close out the scoring for the Raiders.
The Raiders went into the weekend unsure of who they will play in the first round. What Navarre does know is focus is critical to success.
“We have an opportunity but we can’t look ahead. It’s one week at a time as you all well know,” Walls said.
Read more about the Raiders in the Nov. 8 issue of the Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.