If anyone was looking for a sign that expectations have been raised for Navarre’s boys soccer team, look no further than the Raiders’ reaction to having to settle for a tie in their season opener against area power Niceville last Tuesday night at the NYSA Soccer Complex.
The players were a little frustrated they let an opportunity to knock off the Eagles slip away, settling for a 2-2 tie after leading the game 2-0 after one half of action. But they talked after the game about keeping their heads up and refusing to let their disappointment get the best of them.
“It’s a loss in our minds because we were ahead 2-0, but I thought the guys played hard,” said first-year head coach Abdalla Elbaioumy, who is known to his players as coach Bedo. “We are playing well as a team and we will learn from this and get better.”
The Raiders entered the new season with momentum, having won preseason games against Choctaw and Niceville by 2-0 scores earlier this month.
That wave of momentum seemed to carry over in the first half against Niceville. Navarre dominated time of possession and grabbed a 1-0 advantage when Zack Shealey scored off an assist from Dunham.
Dunham was involved in the second goal as well, dishing the ball off to Sam Golden, who punched the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead with five minutes left in the half.
“We controlled the whole first half,” Elbaioumy said. “(Niceville) didn’t get many chances to score. We had some other chances but couldn’t capitalize. But it was a good half for us.”
A light rain began to fall on this cool November evening as the second half started up and the Eagles quickly battled back, cashing in on a couple of mistakes to force a tie.
The Eagles scored five minutes into the second half to slice the Navarre lead to 2-1 and then scored again with 10 minutes to go.
“We made a couple of mistakes and they got back into it,” Elbaioumy said. “The guys are mad about it but we know we have a good team. We know we can beat anyone if we play our best. We just have to continue to trust and believe in ourselves.”
Read more in the Nov. 17 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.