The powerhouse Navarre Raiders (9-0, 3-0) seized and held a formidable beachhead early in Friday night’s football game against the Dolphins (2-7, 1-2) at Gulf Breeze High School, fueling an unstoppable momentum towards their landslide 47-7 victory, their ninth straight win over Gulf Breeze.
The much-deserved triumph won the Raiders the Beach Bowl Trophy, sealed the District 2-6A title, and handed the team the bragging rights that come standard issue with a historic 9-0 season start.
The sizzling and long-standing contention between the two rivals lit the burners beneath a rowdy gridiron. “We did not take anything for granted,” Navarre coach Jay Walls said as he clapped one of his triumphant players on the back after the game. “The team gave a great effort defensively. A great job by the offensive.”
Walls’ justified praise is something of an understatement. The Raiders offense commanded the field decisively from the first moments of the match and offered little quarter for the Dolphins, who managed only 47 total rushing yards in the first half. Michael Sandle’s immediate 96-yard opening kickoff return netted Navarre the first goal of the brawl. A botched field goal attempt by Gulf Breeze opened an opportunity for the Raiders to extend a 19-0 lead over the Dolphins at the close of the first quarter, and if one blinked he might have missed Raider Hassan Williams’ touchdown moments into the second quarter, which lit a score of 26-0 above a lively stadium crowd.
At times the field resembled a ticker tape parade of floating penalty flags; the refs’ relentless rain against both teams continued apace during a running clock in the final quarters. The Raiders were 47-0 at the half and held that explosive lead until the last seconds of the game, when Dolphins QB Tristan Covell smashed through the Raiders’ backups and planted the ball in the end zone for a Gulf Breeze touchdown.
That defiant Dolphins rally was far from enough to level the 47-7 final, but it did exemplify what Gulf Breeze coach Chris Nemith called “the whole idea of high school football.” “They didn’t quit,” he said of his team. “If they don’t quit here, they don’t quit later in life. This game builds great men, great fathers and husbands. And if these young men learn to fight here, they will be willing to fight for these good things for the rest of their lives.”
One can be certain that as Covell, shielded by his teammates, emerged from the Raiders defensive wall to hammer that last goal on the board, Nemith was smiling.