There can only be one District 2-6A football champion.
Renewing one of the area’s greatest rivalries, the undefeated Navarre Raiders (8-1) will play host to Gulf Breeze (7-1) at 7:30 p.m. today. This year’s winner of the Publix Beach Bowl Cup will also bring home a district title.
The game pits a face off of two of the area’s top offensive threats, as Tyler Phelps (263.6 passing yards-per-game, 28 total TDs, 3 interceptions) and Michael Carter (162.3 rush yards-per-game, 8.6 yards-per-carry, 25 total TDs) both seek to get their offenses firing on all cylinders.
“I’ve been playing with (my senior teammates) since we were 8 years old, some of us started together when we were 5 — playing in this game is what we dreamed of as young’uns,” Carter said. “We would go to the high school games and imagine what it would be like playing on a stage like this. Now we are here.
“Our focus isn’t really on the rivalry. We have a goal in mind and Gulf Breeze is in our way. We want to win the district championship and get home field advantage in the playoffs.”
While Carter and the Raiders are familiar with district championships and success, it’s quite different for the Dolphins and Phelps, as the Dolphins have lost nine straight to the Raiders.
“Us seniors have gone through some pretty hard times at Gulf Breeze,” Phelps said. “We’ve stuck together and fought through all of that stuff. Our games vs. Navarre have been one sided in the past. For us to have the opportunity to change that and bring a district championship to Gulf Breeze for the first time since the 1980s — there’s not much more you can want to play for in high school football. It’s super special to us.”
The Dolphins feel confident in their ability to score points (38.75 points-per-game), and realize that containing Carter could likely be the biggest of multiple challenges on Friday night.
“(Navarre) has won 20 straight regular season games — you don’t do that if you are a bad team,” Phelps said. “Navarre has kids who can score and a defense that can stop people. They are well-coached … but so are we. I’ve never seen a coach like (Gulf Breeze) coach Bobby Clayton. We’re just very excited to compare ourselves to Navarre this year.”
The atmosphere should be electric at Navarre. The Raiders faithful seem to produce a packed house, week after week.
But there will be plenty of support for the Dolphins, as Gulf Breeze’s fan passion seems to match the Raiders.
And they have no problem traveling, especially for a game like this.
“We call our fans the Splash Zone 12 — they are like our 12th man giving us a lot of support,” Clayton said. “Not only the student section, it’s the whole community. I’m assured it will be the same way Friday night.”
Want to go?
Where: Navarre High
Who: Navarre Raiders vs. Gulf Breeze Dolphins
Records: Navarre (8-0); Gulf Breeze (7-1)
Skinny: Winner will capture District 2-6A title and home field advantage in first round of playoffs. Runner up will hit road in first round of playoffs.