Preseason high school football "kickoff classic" matchups are little more than glorified scrimmages. Scores and players' statistics don't count toward season totals -- but teams can set a tone for the coming campaign.
Navarre's varsity outscored Pace 14-13 in two quarters of a 22-19 win in August at Bennett C. Russell Stadium. It was the Raider varsity's first-ever taste of football victory against the Patriots, who defeated Navarre in the only playoff games of its gridiron history in 2006 and 2007.
Senior linebacker Chris Stapleton put the preseason boost in perspective after the Aug. 27 game.
"The win over the Patriots doesn’t really count and we’ve got to realize that it is just a start for a really tough schedule ahead," Stapleton said. "But, hey, it really felt good sticking it to Pace."
Stapleton and company will get a chance to repeat that good feeling tonight at Patriot Stadium, but this time more than pride is at stake. The winner likely will represent District 1-4A in the playoffs as runner-up to Pine Forest, which already has beaten the Raiders (33-13) and Patriots (34-17).
Navarre (5-2 overall, 2-1 in district games) has won three straight heading into tonight's game at Pace (6-2, 2-1). Quarterback Colton Kane leads Navarre's offense with more than 1,300 total yards -- more than 500 on the ground -- and has accounted for 21 scores, 11 rushing. He's thrown just five interceptions. Junior running back Dwayne Carter keeps defenses from keying on the Raiders' signal-caller, rushing for more than 700 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bradley Leggett has caught 21 passes for 411 yards and four scores.
The Patriots, ranked ninth in Florida Class 4A in the latest AP High School Football Poll, features a bruising running game. Running backs Richard Carrion and Austin Autrey have piled up 1,230 yards and eight TDs and 442 yards and seven touchdowns, respectively, while quarterback Devon Varney has proven to be a capable passer with 861 yards and six scores.
Kickoff is scheduled at 6:30 p.m.