The perfect season Navarre High’s football team has so far produced hit another emphatic moment.
This one happened only 13 seconds Friday night into the Raiders’ main rivalry game.
Navarre lit up this emotional matchup with Michael Sandle’s 96-yard, opening kickoff return for a touchdown, then remained in overdrive in a blowout 47-7 victory against coastal neighbor Gulf Breeze at Dolphin Stadium.
It was 19-0 after the first quarter, 40-0 midway through the second quarter, 47-0 at half and a running clock the rest of the way.
“We are never satisfied, we are always hungry,” said Sandle, a senior and two-way player, who put on a one-man show the first half. “We were really amped up for this game.”
The win clinched the District 2-6A title and pushed Navarre to 9-0, extending the best start to any Raiders’ season in their 20-year football history. The Raiders are currently ranked No. 3 in the Florida Class 6A poll.
This setting up a blockbuster finale next Friday against region power Niceville in Navarre’s senior night home game. That will be the prelude to a potential playoff matchup later in November.
“The credit goes to the kids because they have really worked hard,” said Navarre coach Jay Walls, reflecting on all these feats attained one night. “They have been all in…. and credit to my coaching staff. They have been grinding since last off season.
“Our hard work is paying off and we are definitely excited about it.”
After saluting their band and cheering sections, the Raiders were awarded the Beach Bowl Trophy by the Gulf Breeze News for the ninth consecutive time, maintaining ownership since the prize was started in 2007.
Navarre High students, who helped fill most of the visitors side of Dolphin Stadium, were as ready as the team. They came rocking blue and red sweatshirts with “Trump The Breeze” on the front, then “You’re Fired!” on the back with all the years listed that Navarre has won this game.
”It is a big game for all our whole school, for our student body and the whole community of Navarre,” Walls said. “Our community gets excited for it.”
Sandle provided excitement from the split-second he gathered the opening kickoff into his arms. Never slowing, never hesitating, he burst straight through the middle of the field virtually untouched for his season first kickoff return.
”Once I got it, I saw an open crease, I hit it and it was wow…. it’s just awesome,” said Sandle, describing the sensation. “You get a big hole, then you are running down the sideline, you got your teammates beside you… and you get in the end zone and celebrate.”
Just like that, he made it look easy.
Later in the first quarter, he broke a punt return 54 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Hasaan Williams for the third Raiders’ touchdown. Sandle then lined up behind center in a Wildcat formation and raced 30 yards for a touchdown.
”I expect nothing less whenever I get the ball,” he said. ”I expect to score.”
The Raiders kept scoring, kept playing hard defense. They limited Gulf Breeze to just 47 yards total offense in the first half, minus-1 yards rushing.
Their offense scored every possession except for a knee-down one to kill off the final 17 seconds before halftime. Their defense got a score from junior linebacker Bo Hering, who had a 29-yard interception return, then had an quarterback sack for an 18-yard loss in the second half.
Gulf Breeze got its touchdown with 2.9 seconds left in the game. Navarre had staged a goal line stand that was extended with three end zone penalties. Dolphins quarterback Tristan Covell bulled his way in from the 2.
In the second half, Walls rested his starters for most of the way and was able to play a bulk of his bench.