Typically, when Navarre and Niceville square off, the match is competitive and usually decided by a goal.
Last Friday night’s game was even closer than that. The district rivals battled to a 1-1 draw at Twin Oaks in Niceville.
The game was scoreless until the 70th minute. Niceville was awarded a penalty kick on a controversial foul inside the penalty box. The Eagles converted on the free shot and led with just 10 minutes left to play.
The Raiders did not fold. With just four and a half minutes remaining in the contest, Navarre evened the score. Morgan Richard picked up a deflection in front of the Eagles goal and put the rebound in the right corner of the net.
Earlier in the week, Navarre followed up their 8-0 drubbing of Pace with a 7-0 shutout over Milton.
The Raiders started slow and led 2-0 at the half. Bailey Bridges got the Raiders on the board immediately after the first half water break. Less than a minute later, Jonah Cruz made it 2-0. His shot banged off the right post and ricocheted all the way across the mouth of the goal into the left corner.
The second half was a different story.
In a matter of four minutes, Navarre put four shots past the Panther keeper. Zach Shealey got the onslaught started when he stole the ball and scored from 15 yards out. Brandon Lawson then made a nice cross to Malone Doughty who scored from in front of the goal.
One minute later Nate Schroeder fed Shealey for his second score. Garrett Haygood made it 6-0 just a few seconds later when he scored after taking a pass from Matt Dunham. Liam Palmatier closed out the scoring when he took a feed from Zack Gonzales, got behind the defense, and went in uncontested against the goalie.
The Raiders close out the season with non-district games against Pensacola Catholic and Gulf Breeze. They will then head into the district tournament next Monday in Niceville as the No. 3 seed. Their opening round match will be against Crestview, an opponent they have defeated twice this season.
Should they get by the Bulldogs, they will most likely face Niceville in the semi-final round. The winner of that game will play for the district championship and automatically qualify for regional tournament play. A loss by either team will end their season.
Senior Profiles: Six players were recognized on senior night last week. Those seniors were Malone Doughty, Garrett Hagood, Nate Schroeder, Jonah Cruz, Bailey Bridges and Logan Townsend.
Doughty is the son of Paul and Jill Doughty and has played four years of soccer at Navarre. He is a three-year letter-winner for the Raiders. His favorite soccer memory as a player is scoring three goals in two minutes in a travel tournament title game against a team Raiders coach Zac Preston was coaching. He plans to attend Central Florida next year.
Hagood is the son of Rex and Cathy Hagood and has played for the Raiders for the past four years. He is a four-year letter-winner and plans to attend a junior college before transferring to Auburn.
Schroeder is the son of Bobbi Schroeder and has played four years of soccer at Navarre. He is a three-year letter-winner and plans to attend the University of West Florida in the fall. His most memorable game was when he head-butted a Choctaw player and ended up with eight stitches. The Choctaw player got 12 stitches.
Cruz is the son of Gener and Karen Cruz. He is a three-year letter-winner for the Raiders and is favorite memory is scoring his first varsity goal against Choctaw. He plans to attend the University of West Florida.
Bridges is the son of Rochelle and Paul Bridges. He is a two-year letter-winner at Navarre and also plays club soccer. He plans to attend Daytona State in the fall.
Townsend is the son of Bradley and Sage Townsend and is a four-year letter-winner. He is an avid surfer and plans to attend the University of North Florida.