Sometimes all it takes is one play to wake a team up.
With the offense looking sleepy and sluggish, leading to three straight punts, Navarre’s defense rose to the occasion with a safety, breaking a scoreless tie against Washington with 11:34 left in the first half.
“The safety got a lot going for us. It gave us a lot of momentum,” Raiders defensive back Nolan Garrett said
The big play was set up by Jacoby’s Smith perfect punt, the ball rolling and stopping at the 1-yard line of the Wildcats.
If there was still any sleep left in the eyes of the Raiders on a warm Friday night, it was wiped out moments after the clutch defensive play when Michael Carter, who struggled to get on track early, busted straight up the middle for a 45-yard touchdown run that brought the crowd to its feet.
Students threw baby powder into the air as they cheered wildly and the Raiders rolled in front 9-0 with 11:14 to play in the half. They would survive a close call late en route to a 36-20 victory over the Wildcats in the home opener at at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
The Raiders (2-0) held off a late surge by the Wildcats (1-1), who scored twice in the third to trim Navarre’s lead to 29-20 on two touchdowns in a span of 2:40 in the third.
For head coach Jay Walls, it was the 40th win in his career with the Raiders. The feeling of winning never gets old, although the game was a little too close for comfort at times.
“We started a little slow, but I’ll tell you what, we had to battle, but I’m proud of the kids for the way they played,” Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “We’ll take a win any way we can get it.”
Navarre came in riding the high of its season-opening 41-13 win over Pensacola Catholic, a win fueled by a four-touchdown performance by Carter and a relentless and aggressive defense that gave up less than 200 yards.
Carter was at it again Friday, carving up the Wildcats for five touchdowns, as he helped Navarre win its 14 consecutive game in the regular season dating back to 2014.
Carter scored his second TD of the night on a 3-yard run with 4:16 to go in the half, following the lead of his blockers into the end zone. Sage Chambers set the stage for the score when he scrambled for gains of 10 and 15 yards to push Navarre into the red zone.
Washington entered the night fresh off a win. The Wildcats, winners of only two games last year, topped Milton 25-13 in week one and hoped to build off the momentum.
Their momentum fizzled out quickly, thanks to a blocked punt by Garrett and Cade Taylor and Josh Carter teaming up for a big sack. Tyson Brown capped off the first half with an interception as the Raiders went into halftime with a 16-0 lead.
Washington scored early in the third on a kickoff return by Eric Goldsmith but the Raiders answered in a hurry thanks to a pair of touchdowns by Carter, who scored on runs of 13 yards and 8 yards to stretch Navarre’s lead to 29-6 with 6:06 left in the third.
Ahead just 29-20 in the fourth, Carter saved the day with his fifth TD of the night, cutting through traffic to find his way into the end zone on a 30-yard run to push the Raiders back in front 36-20 with 10:38 left.
Navarre is off next week before returning to action Sept. 16 with a road game against Choctaw.