Navarre falls in showdown between state-ranked teams

Some nights a team just has to learn from a loss and move on.

Navarre’s football team found itself in that situation Friday night against Escambia.

The Raiders fell 37-27 to the Gators in a showdown between state-ranked teams at Emmitt Smith Field in Pensacola.

Navarre trailed 20-7 at halftime but closed the gap to 20-14 right out of the gate in the third quarter when Josh Carter powered into the end zone on a 5-yard run.

Unlike past instances where the Raiders faced adversity in a big game, rallying for thrilling wins against Crestview and Pine Forest earlier this season, this time they couldn’t make enough plays to fuel a comeback.

The 17-game regular-season road winning streak is over.

Fourth-ranked Navarre (6-1) also suffered its first loss of the season.

The ninth-ranked Gators (5-1) capitalized on big plays to pull off the mild upset.

“They are a really good football team. They made some big plays,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “I thought our guys played hard. We got to get better. I’ve been saying it all along. We got to get better, and we will. I’m just disappointed in the loss but proud of the effort.”

The Raiders had a chance to tie the game at 7-7 on their first drive of the night.

But after getting inside the 5-yard line on a straight ahead run by Chris Williams, Navarre went backwards, including twice off plays where Marlon Courtney was sacked.

It was one of several missed opportunities that might have changed the outcome.

Frank Peasant scored the Gators’ first three touchdowns, staking his team to a 20-0 lead after one quarter.

Dante Wright ended the shutout with the 50th touchdown of his career.

Wide open near the Navarre sideline, the Tulane commit caught the pass from Courtney and ran untouched to the end zone on the 34-yard scoring play, cutting Escambia’s lead to 20-7.

Wright scored again late in the fourth, trimming the Gators’ lead to 10 and reviving the Raiders’ hopes of a comeback.

Even the defense battled until the end, grinding away to give Navarre a shot at the win.

“We’re never going to quit. Ever. “We’re going to play four quarters,” senior Jacobi Smith said.

Navarre now shifts its attention to District 2-6A play against Milton next Friday night at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.

Already with one district win, the Raiders aim to keep their quest for a sixth title in program history alive.

“We have to be motivated by this one and put it behind us real quick,” Walls said. “The only thing we can’t do is go 10-0.”

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