Derrick Smith, No. 2 of the Navarre Raiders tries to find room to run around defending Milton Panthers No. 5, Jordan Rich, and No. 10, D’ondre Johns during their kickoff classic meeting Thursday night at Milton High. The JV teams were also featured in this matchup with the varsity teams playing two-quarters against each other.
If there was one thing Milton coach Chafan Marsh was confident about heading into the 2014 season, it was his defense.
On Thursday night, his line showed why as the Panthers defense shut down the Navarre Raiders 6-0 in the varsity portion of their preseason jamboree at Milton High School.
“The guys gave good effort,” Marsh said. “There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to correct. There’s a lot of stuff we did well (also), but we’ve got to keep working and getting better because this area’s tough.
“There are no easy Friday nights.”
Senior Quindarius Deramus set the tone early for the Panthers, stopping a run attempt by Navarre’s Derrick Smith on the Raiders first offensive play and then sacking QB Matthew Webb two plays later for an eight-yard loss on third down to force the Raiders to a three-and-out.
The rest of the D followed suit, not allowing a single Raiders’ first down in the varsity contest.
“I think we’ve got a chance to be good defensively as long as we keep improving and guys stay healthy,” Marsh said. “It was good to see a good effort out of our defense in the second half. I was very happy about that.”
As for the offense, the Panthers managed to overcome a handful of miscues to escape with the win, their defining moment coming early in the first quarter.
On their second possession of the contest the Panthers picked up a fresh set of downs after a pass-interference call went against the Raiders on third-and-11 from the Navarre 42.
After spotting the ball on the 27-yard line, QB Trevor Walters faked the handoff and zipped a pass to Ben Wilson in the endzone for the only score of the game.
“He’s a good, young man,” Marsh said of his quarterback. “He’s our team leader, he’s a guy that the kids rally behind and he’s a high-character guy that’s good to coach.”
For Navarre’s part, the Raiders struggled to find offense but still took comfort in their defense’s ability to close out the game.
“We had trouble at the line of scrimmage,” Navarre coach Jay Walls said. “They did good defensively against our offense.
“We certainly have to get better. Everywhere: Offense, defense, kicking game. And we will, our kids our working hard. I thought it was a good night as far as our scrimmage went. We were able to play a lot of kids.”
As for the Panthers, the win gives the team confidence heading into the regular season while helping to erase the memory of 2013’s rough start.
“Let’s not talk about that. ” Marsh laughed. “It makes me feel good (winning the jamboree). It gives these kids a boost of confidence.
“It’s one thing for coaches and grown men to have a little bit of confidence, but it’s another thing for these young men to have confidence going into the season. That’s what I’m excited about.”