Eddie Love Jr. looks for a hole on a running play against the Tate Aggies. He scored three times in the third quarter as the Raiders rolled offensively. (Photo by Stuart Camp)
Eddie Love Jr. sparked a third-quarter hurricane Friday that propelled Navarre to a 38-20 triumph at Tate.
This is Raiders fourth victory over the Aggies in a row, second straight win of 2022 season, and a perfect start to their class 4 Suburban District 1 campaign. All of Navarre’s triumphs this year have been double-digit, cruise-to-the-final whistle affairs.
But, Friday night, Navarre walked into halftime down 8-7 with few positive points to ponder at the break. They coughed up the ball twice, missed two mid-range field goals, gave up a safety, and ceded a last-second touchdown to the Aggies.
According to Raider head coach Jay Walls, the first-half defense was key, “… holding them to two touchdowns and weathering that storm.
“In the second half, we played REALLY good football,” he said. “(We) came out and got the mo (momentum) right off the bat.”
And then Love – with special teams and offensive line teammates – wrecked the Aggies.
The sophomore running back fielded the second-half kickoff, found a route through Tate’s charging herd, and outsprinted everyone for six points and an amazing turn of fortune.
“On the kick return, I was surprised. I did not see the hole until Terence (Marshall) pointed it out, and I just went,” Love said.
It wasn’t clear sailing for Navarre in that third quarter. Tate running back Andre Colston splashed water on the procession with a 53-yard scoring scamper up the middle of the field to retake the lead, 14-13.
But then the tide really turned. Love and the offense put the game out of reach. Love scored on runs of 69 yards and 65 yards.
“I started seeing the gaps more … and I burst through,” he said. “I was running, and it (the hole) was huge. I see just grass. I was like ‘gotta go.’”
After an interception by Trey Bragg, quarterback Hunter Pfeister found Terence Marshall 10 yards behind the Aggie defense for a 60-yard touchdown. That put Navarre up 33-14 with nearly six minutes remaining in the third period.
Navarre’s defense bogged down the Aggies attack, including recover of a bad snap at the Tate 15. Then Taylor Gardner shook off a pair of first half misses to boot through a 37-yard field goal, expanding the margin to 38-14 with nine minutes left in the game.
That was enough of a cushion to absorb a 100-yard, pick-six by an Aggie cornerback in the fourth quarter.
“Momentum is a bad thing. I thought we got the momentum at the end of the half,” Aggie head coach Rhett Summerford said. “I thought, for the first half, we played with them. We played exceptional. We kick off and they take it for a touchdown. It’s tough to keep your kids motivated when that’s going on. We just never got the momentum back.”
The Raiders’ defense withstood the first-half grind to flex on the Aggies while the offense was putting points on the board.
“Even tired and through adversity, everyone stayed up and was ready to keep going,” Raider leader Kiohne Moso. “When the defense had to go back-to-back, (we) kept it up on two drives, let them score one. It gives me a lot of faith and trust in the kind of things my team will do.”
They recorded multiple sacks and tackles-for-loss as the momentum remained with the Raiders. Up-field pressure by the Raider defense wreaked havoc on the Aggies.
“In the second half we were kind of depleted,” Colston said. “My o-line gave up.”
The Leon Lions come to town Friday. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. in Russell Stadium. They’re winless after four games and scoreless in their last two contests – 42-0 against Moseley this week.