The two teams combined for nearly 870 yards of total offense in entertaining game at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
NAVARRE — Nothing like a track meet to kick off the 2017 high school football season.
Viewers of Saturday’s Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather super-fight can only wish for the type of back-and-forth slugfest on display Friday night at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
The end result was a lot of sore arms and chests for the Navarre Jr. ROTC as they combined to do 252 pushups during the Raiders' 56-35 season-opening win over Pensacola Catholic.
The Raider Navy, as they’re known, do one pushup for every point on the scoreboard after a Navarre score. And Friday night, they were busy.
Almost as busy as the Navarre trio of Omari Green, Chris Williams and Dante Wright, who combined for 351 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
“It was a great game, proud of our effort all around,” Navarre coach Jay Walls said after the exhausting win. “We like to spread the ball around. I would have liked to throw it a little more, but we had some big plays on the ground tonight so we stuck with what was working.”
Wright led the Raiders with 161 yards on six carries, Green chipped in 120 yards on 17 carries and Williams had 13 totes for 70 yards. Wright and Green each scored three times while Williams scored twice.
“We have a lot of weapons and any one of us can go the distance,” Wright said. “It’s a good thing to have. We have a lot of guys that can break a long run at any moment.”
That was certainly on display Friday night, on both sides of the field. The two teams combined for 869 yards of total offense and had six scoring plays of longer than 50 yards in the game.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t think they were going to be that good,” Wright said. “They definitely earned respect tonight. They played hard.”
Catholic actually jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first few minutes of the game as they scored on their opening possession.
Navarre didn’t take long to answer the bell, as Green broke loose for a 51-yard TD scamper to knot it up at 7-7.
The Raiders seemed poised to take control midway through the first half as Williams scored on a 9-yard run to take a 14-7 lead. But Catholic remained alive with a 13-yard jaunt from Abram Smiley.
With the game at a standstill, the Raiders mounted a 9-play, 71-yard scoring drive to take a 21-14 lead on Williams’ second TD run.
Any attempt at evening the score was snuffed out by Cade Taylor, who went airborne over the middle of the field to snag Garrett Foley’s pass intended for a receiver down the field.
Taylor returned the interception down to the 33-yard line and the Raiders went for the jugular right away as Sage Chambers hit Brandon Marquis for a 28-yard completion to set up Green’s TD which put the Raiders up by two scores.
Navarre came out and immediately added to that lead to start the third quarter with a 57-yard run by Wright to take what seemed to be a commanding 35-14 lead.
But Catholic got back-to-back touchdowns on big plays, one a 63-yard run by Christian Murphy and the other a 56-yard run by Smiley, to cut the lead to 35-28.
Wright responded with his second TD of the game, this one covering 60 yards to give the Raiders a 42-28 lead. But Smiley was up to the task Friday night, coming right back with an 88-yard run to pull Catholic back to 42-35.
Another TD run by Wright, followed by a 19-yard run by Green put the Raiders up 56-35, and the defense held the rest of the way to send the Raiders to 1-0 on the season.
“I know we gave up some points tonight, but I’m proud of our defense,” Walls said. “Catholic is a much-improved team with a lot of weapons and I thought we needed to make a play tonight at the end, we did.”