Tonight’s Choctawhatchee-Navarre clash won’t decide the District 2-6A football race, but it could position the winner for a title run.
Both teams are 1-0 in district play. The Big Green Indians are just 2-3 overall, but they’ve won two straight, including a 31-28 upset last week against Niceville at Joe Etheridge Stadium, Choctaw’s home field. Navarre is 4-1, its only loss a 25-24 setback at Pensacola that the Raiders dominated and led into the fourth quarter.
Navarre coach Jay Walls said in published reports the Raiders can’t let down against the Indians.
“Their last two wins, you have to give them a lot of credit,” he said. “Beating Niceville is just a huge win for them … When we look at film of them, we see a really good team.”
The teams have played two common opponents, Pensacola Catholic and Niceville. Choctaw lost to Catholic 9-7 in its season-opener, while Navarre edged Niceville 35-28 and shutout Catholic 26-0 in road tests.
Both teams rely on strong defenses and sound ground games. Both teams are holding opponents to less than 18 points per game and both feature prolific runners (Navarre’s Jay Warren, 563 yards rushing, six touchdowns, and Choctawhatchee’s John Hicks, averaging more than 160 yards per game in the Indians’ wins). The Raiders may have an edge offensively thanks to playmakers Nick Benton, Jordan Leggett and Gatlin Casey, all of whom can run the ball or catch it, and slippery quarterback Andrew Rieves, who has added 223 yards and two touchdowns rushing and averages about 100 yards and a touchdown per game through the air. Johnny Robinson-Pettus makes sure the Raider rushing attack doesn’t drop off when Warren leaves the game. He’s carried the ball for 263 yards and four touchdowns.
Jordan Leggett, who has committed verbally to play at Clemson University, is the Rieves’ favored target, The 6-foot-6 slot-back has 20 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their scheme is tough,” Choctawhatchee coach Greg Thomas said. “On the line of scrimmage they have so many weapons. You can’t overload for the run or they’ll hurt you over the top, and it goes vice versa. They’re well coached, physical and very sound, so it’s going to be a big test.”
The Raiders have played only one home game, a season-opening win against Pensacola Washington. With four of its first five games on the road, the schedule gives added emphasis to Navarre’s traditional homecoming festivities tonight. Kickoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
Fort Walton Beach (4-1, 1-0), the district’s only other unbeaten team, plays at Crestview tonight. Niceville, which won last year’s district title, beat Mosley 42-10 Thursday at Mosley to improve to 3-3, 1-2 in District 2-6A).
Fort Walton Beach 1-0 4-1
Navarre 1-0 4-1
Choctawhatchee 1-0 2-3
Niceville 1-2 3-3
Crestview 0-0 2-3
Mosley 0-2 3-3
Week 6 games
Niceville 42, Mosley10
Fort Walton Beach at Crestview, 6 p.m.
Choctawhatchee at Navarre, 7:30 p.m