A trip to the state final four is on the line tonight when Navarre takes on Crestview in the Region 1-6A Regional championship game at Bennett C. Russell Stadium. Kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
The Raiders (11-1) and Bulldogs (9-2) are meeting for the second time this year. Navarre won the regular-season showdown in September 41-35 in overtime, rallying from a 28-point halftime deficit.
Navarre has won its last five games and is playing for a spot in the state final four for the second time in three years. The Raiders are 2-0 in regional finals under head coach Jay Walls.
This showdown pits two of the best offensive and defensive teams in the Panhandle against each other.
The Raiders have been remarkably balanced, with 10 different players scoring an offensive touchdown, led by Dante Wright. Wright has caught nine touchdown passes and has rushed for 10. He rushed for four of those scores in the win over Crestview, including the game-winner.
Defensively, the Raiders haven’t forced nine turnovers in the postseason and haven’t given up more than 15 points in each of their last five games. They have allowed just one special teams score.
One of their big tasks tonight will be slowing down Jay Stanton, who has rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 25 touchdowns.
The Raiders are accustomed to rising to the occasion. They held Gulf Breeze’s Tyler Dittmer to less than 100 yards. He was the state’s leading rusher at the time.
Navarre is the No. 1 seed in the region. Crestview is the third. The winner plays Vanguard or Armwood next Friday in a state semifinal. If Navarre wins, it would host if Armwood, the reigning state-runner up. The Raiders would play on the road if Vanguard is the opponent.
Jay Walls is 70-16 in his seven seasons with the Raiders. His team is 42-6 since 2015. This is Navarre’s seventh consecutive playoff appearance under Walls.
Chris Williams is the first to get 1,000 rushing yards since current North Carolina running back Michael Carter did it in 2016. Williams has rushed for 13 touchdowns. He had only three last year.
Dante Wright is already the all-time leading receiver in program history with 2,435 yards, the first in school history to reach 2,000 receiving yards. He needs one more touchdown to get to 60 in his career. He’s also picked off four passes in two playoff games.
The Raiders have 4,012 yards on the year and have scored 40 or more seven times, hitting the 50-point mark three times. They have outscored the opposition in the playoffs 88-28.
Josh Carter leads the defense with 97.5 tackles. He’s on the cusp of 100 tackles for the third consecutive season for a defense that has held opponents to an 18-for-109 showing on third down.