The Navarre Raiders showcased one of the best seasons in the area last year, finishing undefeated against teams from the Pensacola News Journal coverage area.
And it appears the Raiders have the pieces to do it again, as the team return copious amounts of offensive and defensive starters.
“Our expectations are just as high as last year,” Navarre senior Michael Sandle said. “Basically our whole defense is returning. We’ve got young guys on offense who have stepped up in a big way.”
However, Navarre will have to rely on a new signal-caller, as the Raiders watched All-Area quarterback Matt Webb graduate in May.
“We’ve got two good QBs right now,” said Sandle, who will play both ways as WR and DB for the Raiders. “Sage Chambers, our starter, has really stepped up. He’s the closest thing we’ve got to Matt Webb.”
To help the sophomore QB, Raiders will likely rely on Michael Carter — arguably the best running back in the area — to lead the offensive attack.
“I feel like we might lean on the rush more with Mike (Carter), but our pass game isn’t far behind,” Sandle said.
Carter has had a productive off season, impressing college scouts and securing offers from Mississippi State, as well as the University of Florida.
“I’m excited for every game on the schedule,” Carter said. “Just taking it one week at a time. No game is more important than the other.”
The Raiders will remain in District 2-6A, but instead of a three-team district with Fort Walton Beach and Choctaw, Navarre will be joined by Santa Rosa County teams Pace, Milton and Gulf Breeze.
Two of Navarre’s three losses last season came against Choctaw, which made a run to the 6A regional finals.
The Raiders will face Choctaw in week four, coming off a bye week.
While the game won’t hold district-title implications, expect the Raiders to show full intensity against the Indians to help prepare Navarre for the start of district games in week six.
13 in 13 series
•Saturday, Aug. 8: Catholic Crusaders
•Sunday, Aug. 9: Escambia Gators
•Monday, Aug. 10: Gulf Breeze Dolphins
•Tuesday, Aug. 11: Jay Royals
•Wednesday, Aug. 12: Milton Panthers
•Today: Navarre Raiders
•Friday, Aug. 14: Northview Chiefs
•Saturday, Aug, 15: Pace Patriots
•Sunday, Aug. 16: Pensacola Tigers
•Monday, Aug. 17: Pine Forest Eagles
•Tuesday, Aug. 18: Tate Aggies
•Wednesday, Aug. 19: Washington Wildcats
•Thursday, Aug. 20: West Florida Jaguars
•Sunday, Aug. 23: Super Seniors
(9-3 last season)
Aug. 28 Catholic 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Washington 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 Bye —
Sept. 18 Choctaw 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 Fort Walton Beach 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 Pace* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9 Escambia 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 at Milton* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 Bye —
Oct. 30 at Gulf Breeze* 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 Niceville 7:30 p.m.
*—Denotes District 2-6A game.
Aug. 29 beat Catholic 31-21; Sept. 5 beat Wakulla 42-41 (OT); Sept. 12 beat Pace 49-21; Sept. 19 beat Crestview 21-0; Sept. 26 beat Milton 42-7; Oct. 3 beat Fort Walton Beach 49-13; Oct. 10 lost to Niceville 35-21; Oct. 17 lost to Choctaw 25-15; Oct. 31 beat Dothan 49-24; Nov. 7 beat Gulf Breeze 35-0; Nov. 14 beat Escambia 44-30; Nov. 21 lost to Choctaw 35-14.
Players to watch
Pos. Player Ht. Wt. Yr
DL Anthony Miller 6-0 250 Sr.
Skinny: A top-five tackler for the Raiders last season, Miller finished with 91 total tackles and one sack. Miller will use his large frame and good hands to cause headache for opposing offensive lines this year.
Pos. Player Ht. Wt. Yr
DB Thomas Leggett 6-1 180 Sr.
Skinny: Leggett will likely lead an experienced secondary for Navarre, as the senior finished with 99 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery in his junior campaign.
Pos. Player Ht. Wt. Yr
RB Michael Carter 5-9 188 Jr.
Skinny: As Navarre’s leading rusher, Carter averaged 8.3 yards per carry as a sophomore. The multi-skilled back can beat defenses with speed, strength, agility and in the passing game. Look for Carter to get increased carries and scoring opportunities this season.
Top 3 games
•Sept. 18, vs. Washington: The Raiders will host former district rival Choctaw following a bye in week three. Choctaw got the better of Navarre twice last year, and this game should act as a measuring stick to see which squad had the better off season.
•Oct. 2, vs Pace: This early-October match could slate two of the area’s strongest rushing attacks at Navarre. The Raiders handled the Patriots last year and will seek to keep the streak going in their first District 2-6A contest of the season.
•Oct. 30, at Gulf Breeze: Already a notorious rivalry in Santa Rosa County, the Beach Bowl Cup will carry playoff implications for the first time this season. While the Dolphins won six-of-seven of the first games of the rivalry, Navarre has since won seven straight meetings.