Facing a 10-point deficit entering halftime, the Navarre Raiders (6-0) were “disappointed.”
But the Raiders embraced their rare underdog status, shutting out Escambia (3-5) for the final three quarters for a 17-13 win.
The victory marked the 18th-straight regular season win for the Raiders, who have now rallied for wins twice this season despite facing halftime deficits.
Though losing is never ideal, Escambia showed it’s tough schedule has paid off by forcing a nail-biter with the area’s top team (Navarre ranked No. 21 in state).
A true showdown, both defenses showed their pride with hard-hitting stops for Navarre, while the Gators echoed the physicality and showed spectacular play in the secondary led by Tre Lewis and Chris McCray.
Escambia issued two lengthy drives to jump out, as Queven Dosunmu took a 39 yard run to the house.
After a Tre Lewis interception, Escambia scored on its next drive when Z’khari Blocker found Ray Samuel for a six-yard pass TD.
“Escambia came right out and scored and had all the momentum to start,” Navarre coach Jay Walls said. “Escambia did a great job defensively. They controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half.
“We told our guys on defense. with the speed of the game and the offense (Escambia) runs — you just gotta get used to that. The second, third and fourth quarters they stepped up and did that. If defense didn’t show up tonight the game would have had a different outcome. If offense didn’t pick it up in the second half the game would have a different outcome.”
Navarre wouldn’t show a goose egg in the first quarter, as Dante Wright drilled a 36-yard field goal inside of one minute.
But the Raiders weren’t close to being done, and produced a picture perfect drive to start the second half.
After receiving the kick, Caine Adamson found Sam Register for 32 yards on a post to get the drive rolling.
After a few solid runs by Michael Carter, Adamson found the endzone after an eight-yard quarterback keeper to cut the lead to three.
“(After the touchdown) my teammates were slapping me and saying ‘way to come back.’ All of them are such great teammates. They keep their heads up. When one guy is down, we all know how to pick each other up. We just all got dog in us.”
Navarre flirted with tying the game at the start of the fourth, but Wright’s field goal was no good.
After the teams traded punts and defensive stops multiple times, Carter produced the go-ahead touchdown from the goal line with just more than five minutes to play.
“Our defense is full of great guys who grind all the time,” Adamson said. “Our defense is a big part of our success. Going against them in practice makes us a lot better. It’s good for everyone because we get to practice against what I believe is the best defense around here.”
The Gators had two more possessions, but their final chance was crushed by Joshua Carter’s second sack of the night as the clock expired.
It’s safe to say both teams will find motivation following the hard-fought battle, as both Navarre (vs. Milton) and Escambia (vs. Tate) enter crucial district games next week.