Just because it’s not a district game doesn’t mean Navarre and Escambia’s matchup on Friday night won’t have an electric atmosphere.
While the squads met in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, few current starters were on the sidelines for that game.
Last year’s regular season meeting was competitive, but Escambia failed to reach the postseason to make it consecutive playoff matches.
When the Gators host the Raiders this Friday, both coaches know they are in for a challenge but also know where the true significance of their regular season lies — their remaining district games.
“It would be a lot of momentum (to win), there’s a little bit of a thought that it could be a playoff preview … you never know,” Escambia coach Mike Davis said. “But first, we still have a lot of stuff to work on. We were far from perfect against Pine Forest (last week). We are looking to get better this week. That’s kind of been our philosophy each week of the season.”
Both the Raiders and the Gators are coming off big district wins last week, though the Raiders were able to earn theirs on the road.
“We were definitely really excited last Friday about winning on the road (at Pace) in our first district game,” Walls said. “We beat a much-improved Pace team. But win or lose, we’ve gotta have a short memory every week. We’ve got a really tough task in defending Escambia. I think our kids have focused and worked really hard to prepare for that. The big key is going to be playing physical against their running attack.”
Defensive lineman Joshua Carter (42 tackles, 2 sacks) will seek to lead the Raiders in the trenches, backed by linebacker Bo Herring (Navarre No. 1 tackler with 48 tackles) will aim to stuff Escambia’s rushing attempts and apply pressure in passing situations.
On the other side, Escambia’s option attack has been heating up each week.
Five Gators have rushed for 100 yards or more while two have eclipsed 350 total yards.
“Escambia’s flex bone triple option is tough to simulate in practice with our scout team,” Walls said. “With only a week to prepare, it can be tough to get guys ready. Everybody on defense is going to have to stick to their assignment, but at the same time they still have stay aggressive and attack.
“On offense, we have been telling our guys to protect the football, execute well and make no mistakes. Every mistake will be amplified against a team like Escambia.”
Davis drew comparisons from Escambia’s previous game, saying Navarre “is a lot like Pine Forest in a few ways,” mentioning their collection of playmakers and wide athleticism.
“We can’t send everyone to tackle (MIchael) Carter, Navarre’s QB (Caine Adamson) is a really good runner too,” Davis said. “We’re used to that, we’ve been playing tough teams every week. Our guys are loose and they are relaxed. They seem to be ready to play. We’ll see if we can build off what we did last week. The stuff we’ve been telling our guys all year is starting to come into fruition.”