The view from the press box

The Lead In

Navare’s girls soccer team is rolling. The Raiders have won their last four games and begin District 1-6A tournament play Tuesday night against Crestview or Pace.

And there’s no question momentum matters at this time of the year. Navarre closed out the regular season with an 8-0 win over Tate Tuesday night.

Winless in their final four games of December, Navarre lost just once in the first month of 2020.

“We finished December on such a sour note, but everything in January was positive,” Navarre head coach Rob Simon said. “We had a chance to relax and rest some players with that big win over Tate, and now we’ve basically had a week off to get to get ready for the tournament.”

Simon will tell you the approach stays the same as it did in the regular season, although the stakes are certainly higher. District champs are assured of an automatic berth to the regional.

The Raiders are fifth in the Region 1 playoff poll and could still get into the regional without winning the district title. The top eight punch a ticket.

“I don’t think anything changes,” Simon said. “We want to win every game and our mindset is to go out and win and play at the highest level we can play at.”

Simon likes the fact that the Raiders are hosting the district tournament, which they are looking to win for the first time since 2015 when the team reached the state final four.

He considers this team to be a special one as he has watched this group grow up, coaching many of them either in club soccer or at a team camp.

He would love nothing more than to see this team win a district crown and go on to make a run in the regional.

Doing that comes down to minimizing mistakes on defense and capitalizing on opportunities.

“We have to put the ball on frame. We did it against Tate and look what happened,” Simon said. “We have to be accurate with our opportunities and be aggressive.”

More Tourney News

District tournament play begins next week for a couple of other teams, starting Monday night in girls basketball when the Raiders play host to Milton in a 6 p.m. showdown. Navarre beat the Panthers twice in the regular season and look to continue that success against their county rival.

The winner moves on to play against top-seeded Pace Wednesday in Crestview. The title game is set for Friday. 

Over in Pensacola, the boys soccer team will begin its run at a district championship Wednesday against Tate at the Ashton Brosnaham Complex. Game time is 5 p.m. The Raiders beat the Aggies 4-1 in the first meeting but played to a 1-1 tie earlier this month. Navarre is hoping to play in the championship game for the third consecutive year.

Senior Night Special

Navarre’s girls basketball team recognized its six seniors Thursday night. Madi Schluter, Hailey Neely, Natasha Elliott, Kadie Hamm, Alyssa Herrick and Taylor Cockrell have all played a part in Navarre’s turnaround in basketball over the last three years.

The Raiders make it a memorable night, crushing Pensacola Catholic 65-24 in their final game of the regular season. Neely leads the way with 20 points. The win is the 12th of the year for Navarre, which is the most since the 2015-16 season when the Raider won 22 games.

Still on a Roll

Navarre’s boys basketball team stretched its win streak to seven Tuesday with a 63-50 win over Fort Walton Beach. Four players finished in double figures, including 13 points apiece from Joe Sczesny and Louis Carter, helping the Raiders improve to 15-7.

Still, Navarre sits on the outside looking in as far as the regional tournament is concerned, checking in at No. 11 in the Region 1-6A poll with a 4.819 RPI. But it can help its own cause tonight in a 7:30 p.m. game against Milton at home. The Panthers are 10th (5.113 RPI) in the poll. The top eight teams will receive playoff berths.

On a mission to repeat

Navarre’s competitive cheer team takes aim at back-to-back 2A state championships today in Gainesville. The Raiders won their first title in program history a year ago and are coming off their best performance of the year in the regional two weeks ago.

Brian Out Loud!

Time flies goes by quick. In this week’s column in the paper, I reflect on my five-year anniversary at the Navarre Press. I’ve been lucky enough to witness some impressive athletic accomplishments in my time here at the paper and you can read more about those in my column. Be sure to give it a read. And thank you to everyone who reads my work day in and day out. I appreciate it.

Remembering Kobe Bryant

NBA legend Kobe Bryant was one of nine passengers that died in a tragic helicopter crash Sunday morning in California.  Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among those killed. They were on their way to her AAU tournament with two of her friends.

Bryant was one of the greatest of all time, spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and was doing a lot of good for others in his post-NBA life. No one can imagine the pain family and friends of those lost in the crash are going through. It’s a heartbreaking deal all the way around. I have more thoughts on the tragedy in my column next week.

Super Bowl Pick

I grew up in Illinois and cheered like crazy when the 1985 Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. But since that point, I’ve been a San Francisco 49ers fan and I have to go with the Niners to win the Super Bowl Sunday against Kansas City.

Not only am I fan, but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and are both alums of Eastern Illinois University. My pick is 49ers 35, Chiefs 24, but don’t put any real money on that one in case I’m wrong.

This Day in Sports History

On Jan. 31, 1999, the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIII to repeat as champions of the NFL. Also on this day in 1920, Joe Malone of the Quebec Bulldogs set an NHL record with seven goals in a game.

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