Navarre High School’s football Raiders took a well-deserved break last week, mending wounds and enjoying a 5-1 start that has them poised for a postseason run with three of their last four games at home.
The Raiders will play their final road game of the regular season beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, in Crestview (3-4, 1-1). Navarre will finish the season at Bennett C. Russell Stadium with district foes Fort Walton Beach and Mosley and arch-rival Gulf Breeze.
The Bulldogs are playing to keep their playoff hopes alive. Fort Walton Beach and Navarre, with identical 5-1, 2-0 marks, are frontrunners for the district’s two playoff spots. Navarre will host the Vikings on Oct. 26 at Bennett C. Russell Stadium in a game that could decide the district championship.
Crestview is led by running back Micah Reed, who rushed for 260 yards in a win against Choctawhatchee last week and has run for more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns through seven games. Reed has verbally committed to play football at the University of Central Florida. Navarre coach Jay Walls, a former Crestview assistant, said Micah Reed’s younger brother, Emmanuel, also will demand the Raiders’ defensive attention. Emmanuel Reed is quarterback Dakota Davis’ favorite receiver.
The Raiders played four of their first six games on the road, including four straight at traditional powers Pensacola, Pace, Niceville and Pensacola Catholic. Navarre’s only loss came at Pensacola in the season’s second week. Raiders’ penalties and turnovers helped the Tigers rally in the fourth-quarter for a 25-24 win.
Navarre easily defeated Washington and Catholic, built comfortable leads and survived late rallies at Pace and Niceville, and survived its own homecoming with a 21-17 come-from-behind win against Choctaw last week.
The Maroon and Black has scored an average of 26.3 points and allowed 15 points per game. The Raiders’ offense starts with the run – the team has racked up 1,613 yards and 14 scores on 214 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry – but has developed an efficient passing attack as well (725 yards and 8 touchdowns).
Senior running back Jay Warren is among the area’s rushing leaders with 737 yards and six touchdowns in 92 carries. Johnny Robinson-Pettus is averaging almost 9 yards per carry (287 yards and 4 touchdowns on 32 carries) and quarterback Andrew Rieves (271 yards, 2 touchdowns, 6.7 yards per carry) have been productive, while cornerback/running back/kick returner Nick Benton leads the team with 11.3 yards per carry (13 for 148 and 1 score).
Rieves, who played linebacker a year ago, has completed 55 percent of his passes (52 of 93) for 713 yards, 8 scores and 4 interceptions. His efficiency has improved in recent games after a shaky start.
“Last year, I was on defense,” Rieves explained after the Crestview game. “Coming back to play quarterback (after presumptive starter Robby Miller was injured in spring practice), I wasn’t used to the speed of the linebackers and cornerbacks. I worked on timing with my receivers through the summer, but it still wasn’t where it needed to be. I think I’m playing better as my timing improves.”
Eleven receivers have caught passes for the Raiders, but 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Leggett, who has committed verbally to play football for Clemson University, has been Rieves’ favorite target. Leggett has 27 catches for 481 yards and 6 touchdowns. Casey Gatlin has the next highest receptions total with seven.
The defense has been the Raiders’ foundation all season. Navarre has yielded 169 total yards per game, stopping 63 percent of opponents’ third-down tries and a whopping 90 percent of their fourth-down attempts.
Linebacker Jessie Holmes leads Navarre in total tackles with 55, 26 of those unassisted, and Mason Mikul has 51 with 27 unassisted. Kody Kelly has a team-high 30 unassisted tackles and 44 stops total.
Benton has three of the Raiders’ eight interceptions, two blocked kicks, two fumbles caused and two recovered, and 31 total tackles, 21 unassisted.
Christian Gill has four of Navarre’s 11 quarterback sacks and four quarterback hurries and Jacob Kendall has eight hurries and two tackles for lost yardage.
Fort Walton Beach 2-0 5-1
Navarre 2-0 5-1
Crestview 1-1 3-4
Choctawhatchee 1-2 2-5
Niceville 1-2 4-3
Mosley 0-2 3-3
Week 6 results
Niceville 42, Mosley10
Fort Walton Beach 21, Crestview17
Navarre 21, Choctawhatchee 17
Crestview 28, Choctawhatchee 24
Fort Walton Beach idle
Fort Walton Beach at Niceville, 7 p.m.
Mosley at Choctawhatchee, 7 p.m.
Navarre at Crestview, 7 p.m.