The Navarre Raiders traveled to Pensacola Friday night looking to earn two things — respect and redemption.
Consider both of those missions accomplished.
With all of the success the Raiders have had over the last three years, one thing they had not been able to do during that stretch was to beat the Catholic Crusaders.
The Raiders did just that, and did it with an exclamation point, as they rolled to a 26-0 win.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Navarre senior Johnny Robinson-Pettus, who finished with 56 yards on four carries. “We have not beat Catholic since I’ve been here. We got picked as underdogs in this game, and we came out here to prove everybody wrong.”
With former coach Chad Lashley leaving last winter, Robinson-Pettus said a lot of talk was that the Raiders would have to do some rebuilding under first-year coach Jay Walls.
Through the first five games, the Raiders have dispelled that myth.
“We’re here for real this year,” Robinson-Pettus said. “We have potential to take it all the way. Everybody has been saying it’s our rebuilding year, and I don’t see it as that.”
Crusaders can’t mope for long
Catholic took it on the chin Friday, as Navarre knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 26-0 win.
But the Crusaders can’t lie on the mat for long, as they jump into District 1-3A play this week at Florida High.
And unlike the other districts in the area, the Crusaders have no margin for error.
With three teams in the district, one of those teams being state powerhouse Madison County, a loss all but erases any playoff hopes.
“It’s going to be difficult (to bounce back) because we were out-performed by obviously a much-better squad (Friday),” Catholic coach Greg Seibert said. “It’s my job to have this team prepared for next week because I obviously did not have them prepared for this week.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board on Monday and see if we can get ready for Florida High.”
Changed plan may have cost Gators
Escambia High head coach Willie Spears’ plan going into Friday’s 30-22 loss to Milton was to keep the ball away from the Panthers’ talented skilled players.
That’s what made it such a curious decision when Spears elected to punt on fourth-and-inches near midfield.
“We were down by one point (16-15), and I was worried because they have a good field-goal kicker,” Spears said. “I was worried about them getting two long passes and going into the half down four instead of down one.”
Spears said the inexperience of his players was another determining factor in deciding to kick the ball away.
“We’re a young team,” Spears said. “If we were more experienced, I would have (gone for it).”
Raiders’ offensive line sets tone
For the most part, offensive linemen across the board go pretty much unnoticed.
Unless they’re called for holding, or they jump offside for the whole world to see, they remain fairly anonymous.
And there may not be a more anonymous unit than the one at Navarre.
Not featuring any 6-5, 300-pound mammoths that stand out in a crowd, the Raiders’ offensive line remains fairly inconspicuous.
All you have to do is ask them.
“They probably think they’re talking to the JV line,” one Navarre linemen said to reporters watching the Raiders practice last week.
The Raiders’ offensive line doesn’t necessarily pass the eyeball test. But they repeatedly get the job done on the football field.
The group consists of left tackle Marvin Darby, left guard Mitch Posey, center Chas Swem, right guard Drayton Taylor and right tackle Tyler Schmitt. For the record, Taylor is the “big boy” of the group at a listed 6-2, 275 pounds. The rest of the line averages 6-0, 235 pounds.
“Our offensive line is different,” tailback Jay Warren said. “They’re unique. Negativity gets them pumped up. That’s what sets the tone for them. They’re the type of people where they hear somebody talking bad about them or not giving us our respect, they’re going to go out there and give it their all on Friday night.”
Eagles step up in Lee’s absence
With senior quarterback and captain Rashaad Lee sitting out Friday’s game against Tate, the Pine Forest Eagles had several other players step up in a 39-0 win over the Aggies.
The first was sophomore quarterback Reid Gilliland, who stepped in to direct the Eagles’ veer attack. He scored a touchdown in his first career start.
“I thought Reid did a good job,” Pine Forest coach Jerry Pollard said. “He’s going to get bigger and stronger. Once he does, he’s going to be able to do a little more.”
Trebian Suggs and sophomore James Mayberry also had big nights, with Suggs rushing for 188 yards and Mayberry adding 100 yards and two TDs.