Navarre stays focused despite change to schedule

Instead of traveling to Tallahassee for a football game, Navarre was on the practice field Friday morning.

Its game against Leon ended up postponed until Monday night due to the threat of a tropical storm. The Raiders and Lions will play at 6 p.m. EST at Gene Cox Stadium.

The Santa Rosa County School District Thursday made the decision to postpone the game. It puts the brakes on the build-up to the District 1-7A battle.

“You prepare all week and build up for the game, and the day before you have a schedule change,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said in a phone interview this morning. “You have to regroup and reorganize for Monday.”

Walls talked with the team after the decision Thursday and talked with his team again at practice today.

“I told the guys we have to make the most of the extra day and the weekend to mentally focus and physically prepare,” Walls said. “We have to make the most of the situation and handle it the right way. So far, they have responded. We had a short practice (Friday) but it was productive.”

There were no plans to practice Saturday because of the chance of rain and practice isn’t allowed on Sunday.

“We’ve prepared all week and it might be good for the guys to get some extra rest because we’ll be traveling Monday,” Walls said. “We’ll have all day to get focused and get our minds on what we have to do.”

The Raiders (4-4, 1-3) are looking to bounce back from a 49-31 homecoming loss to Chiles last week and keep their playoff hopes alive. They are eighth in the latest playoff poll.

Leon (3-4, 1-3) has lost its last three games. The Lions are led offensively by Paxton Tomaini, who has thrown for more than 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. Steven Bivins has rushed for a little more than 600 yards and five scores. Jalani Austin tops the defense with 44 tackles.

Playing Monday means the Raiders will have a short week as they are scheduled to face Crestview next Friday at home in their regular-season finale.

But the focus, for now, has to be on Leon.

“Yesterday, some of the kids were asking what does this mean for the next game, but our focus is on Leon. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Walls said.

Navarre isn’t alone in playing Monday. Most of the teams around the area are in the same boat, including Crestview, which plays host to Lincoln.

Still, having to navigate through a schedule change isn’t easy.

“You try to get into a routine and rhythm and something like this comes up. It can affect you,” Walls said. “We’re trying to work against it, stay focused and make the most of it.”

But it is what it is.

“You can’t control the weather. The powers that be have to consider safety and that’s understandable,” Walls said. “But we’ll regroup and play some Monday Night Football.”

Walls said the key to success comes down to limiting big plays, generating big plays of its own and continuing to run the ball with the success it has had the last couple of weeks.

The final two games on the schedule are critical for the Raiders if they are to extend their playoff streak to eight consecutive years.

“Although we lost last week, we are improving. That’s a good sign,” Walls said. “We have to continue to improve, finish strong in the regular season and hopefully do enough to get into the playoffs.”

Noteworthy

Navarre is making its second trip of the season to Tallahassee.

Marlon Courtney has thrown for 1,402 yards on the year and has 3,830 yards in his career. He is closing in on becoming just the third signal caller at Navarre to throw for 4,000 in a career. Courtney ranks second all-time in touchdown passes (28).

Jaden Rivera rushed for a career-best 170 yards last week, the most of any Raider this season. He has 252 yards on the year.

Bailey Huston ranks second in tackles with 52.5. He has come through with six or more tackles six times. Grady Kelly leads the Raiders in tackles (53) and is the state leader in sacks (15). He is tied for eighth in the country in sacks.

Jay Walls is seeking his 75th win at Navarre. He sports a record of 74-21 and is in his eighth season.

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