Raiders seek revenge on Big Green Indians

Posted on September 23, 2015 by Ken Garner

Undefeated Navarre hosts once-beaten Choctawhatchee tonight in a grudge match between two of Class 6A’s top 10 high school football teams.
The Raiders, 3-0 and ranked eighth in the most recent Associated Press Florida High School Class 6A poll, have lost the last three times they’ve lined up against the Big Green Indians, including season-ending decisions in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs. But fourth-year Navarre coach Jay Walls believes this Black-and-Maroon squad may be the school’s best ever. Its stated goal: win a state championship. So far, the Raiders look up to the task, rolling over their first three opponents by an average score of 47-12.
Choctaw, on the other hand, expected to be rebuilding after advancing to the state semifinals in 2014. The Indians lost their leader, dual-threat quarterback Quint Gornto, who is pursuing his football dream as a walk-on at Florida. Just six starters, three on each side of the ball, returned this season.
Still, Choctawhatchee posted a convincing 48-32 win in its opener against Gulf Breeze and nipped Pine Forest 31-28 with a last-second field goal before losing 36-35 in overtime last week to Tallahassee Rickards. The setback dropped the Indians from fifth to ninth in the latest AP poll.
Jake Fairly, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound senior quarterback who transferred to Choctawhatchee from cross-town rival Fort Walton Beach, has been doing his best Gornto impression early this season, threatening defenses with his running ability as well as his strong right arm. Junior Marquise Kane (5-8, 175), who ran for 141 yards and two scores against Rickards, is the team’s top running back. Senior Richie Grant leads Choctaw’s receivers.
The Raiders will need to keep track of senior Chris Pickett (6-0, 170), a defensive back and special teams standout who also lines up at several offensive positions.
Navarre will play its first game without star running back Michael Carter, who underwent season-ending surgery this week to repair torn ligaments in his right knee suffered in the second quarter against Washington. The junior, who leads the area with 526 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 10 quarters of action, will miss up to 10 months and likely will miss spring training, Walls said.
Hasaan Williams, a 5-8, 170-pound senior, and junior Aaron Mitchell (6-1, 210) will pick up Carter’s load in the backfield. Williams rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and caught two passes, touchdowns of 39 and 14 yards, against the Wildcats. Overall, Williams has rushed 27 times for 209 yards and three scores, an excellent average of 7.8 yards per attempt. Mitchell has carried the ball eight times for 99 yards and a pair of scores.
The Raiders impressive ground game isn’t their only weapon, though. The quarterback tandem of sophomore Sage Chambers and junior Caine Adamson have combined to complete 19 of 31 passes for 292 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception.
Laying the foundation for the Raiders’ offensive prowess: its suddenly deep offensive line. Despite losing returning starters Nick Brahms (6-4, 260) and Corey Capenia (6-2, 260) to injury before the first game, the line has dominated the trenches. Third-year starting center Brent Short (5-11, 260, senior) has teamed with Nathan McMaster, Matthew McLeod, Nicholas Moffo and Darrell Hixon to help the Raiders average more than 300 yards per game and nine yards per offensive touch. Meanwhile, Brahms and Capenia are recovering and expected to return to action as soon as tonight.
Defensively, the Raiders have 11 sacks in three games. Linebacker Bo Hering has registered a sack in all three wins and Xavier Fernandez has dropped the quarterback twice. Michael Sandle, Aaron Mitchell and Ryan Diamco have interceptions.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.