Raiders dominate Leon in Homecoming Game

Posted on September 25, 2022 by Stuart Camp

Connor Baird sacks Lions’ quarterback Kemp Peoples to reverse Leon’s progress. (Photo by Stuart Camp).

Navarre’s football team danced to a 38-7 homecoming victory over the Leon Lions.

They’re now 4-1 and headed into their bye week with a lot of momentum.

“We controlled the ballgame,” Raider head coach Jay Walls said. “Hopefully, we can continue to be balanced and do a lot with our offense. Guys are making plays, so we’re going to continue to work hard.”

Hunter Pfeister and the offense threw and ran with success. The defense denied Leon any significant gains, even when they were looking downhill to the end zone.

“They gave us exactly what we were expecting. My guys just didn’t execute,” said Lions head coach Tyrone McGriff. “Navarre plays a game that allows them to have a steady flow of momentum.”

Navarre’s defense continued their string of high performance. They had the Lion’s quarterback scrambling, stopping the run, and disrupting their flow with up-field penetration.

“It was consistent the whole game,” said nose guard Isaac Cole. “As the game progressed, their quarterback ran out of the pocket the whole time.”

The Lions gambled on several fourth downs, twice in the first quarter. On their first drive, they turned the ball over on downs. Navarre capitalized quickly with Eddie Love Jr. catching a 22-yard scoring pass.

Eddie Love Jr. gets caught by Leon Lions Malek Jackson after a 48-yard gain up the right sideline on the opening drive of the second half. (Photo by Stuart Camp)

There was something in the air – the ball – as Pfeister connected with Terence Marshall for a huge gain to put Navarre at the five-yard line and again found Jadon Reese across the middle to cap the drive with another touchdown.

That’s 14-0 with just under two minutes left in the first quarter, which was enough to secure the win.

Love and Walls credited large running avenues and efficient offense to the offensive line’s efforts.

“We had really good run blocking,” Raider senior offensive lineman Ethan Newman said. “I would say it was fairly efficient for both (run and pass blocking). We got a win, so it was pretty successful.”

Reese added a second TD – a six-yard scamper – around the 3:30 mark in the second quarter.

And then Leon caught a little momentum in the second quarter. They caused a turnover to halt a Raider drive, but Xavier Hamilton reversed that fortune with an interception for the Raiders. And just before halftime, a big toss-and-catch put the Lions on the Raider five. They worked it down to just inches short of pay dirt before Kemp Peoples scored on a quarterback sneak with just 10 seconds left on the clock. The Lions recovered the ensuing onside kick near the Raider 35, but Leon couldn’t convert that field position into points.

But …

It only took Navarre two offensive plays in the second half for Love to collect his fifth rushing TD of the season, reestablishing momentum for the Raiders and a 28-7 advantage. However, the speedster got pulled down short of the end zone twice on seemingly breakaway runs.

“They were pretty fast, and they caught me at the end. They got me this time,” Love said.

Even with the cushion, the Raiders’ attack continued. Taylor Gardner scored with a 28-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and Connor Matthews caught a screen and blazed down the right sideline from 37 yards out in the fourth.

The team will catch a breath until Oct. 6 when they return to action against Mosley (4-1) in Panama City.