The Navarre High School football team beat Crestview High School 52-14 at Bennett C. Russell Stadium in Navarre on Senior Night.
NAVARRE — Streaking across the middle of the field, Tyler England could visualize it: Dante Wright — his friend, his role model, his former teammate and now a freshman at Colorado State — was right there, sprinting alongside him, urging him toward the end zone, a Crestview defender draped across his back.
That was all England needed.
A Navarre senior, he dove across the goal line and into the end zone for his first of four touchdowns Friday in the Raiders’ 52-14 running clock victory against the Bulldogs. The Navarre fans, who had flocked to Bennett C. Russell Stadium for Senior Night, roared.
The Raiders answered quickly, though.
Courtney to England for 41 yards. It’s 7-7 with 5:04 left 1Q pic.twitter.com/LLlaR5T8mC
England popped up and exchanged chest bumps with A.J. Arno and Jaden Rivera before flipping the ball to the referee. Something was different Friday. He could feel it. Playing in what could be his last high school football game, England knew he had to put on a show.
“We had Dante last year,” England said. “Dante’s a big role model. I was like, ‘OK, it’s Senior Night. I’m just gonna play like Dante.’”
He did, finishing his night with five catches for 128 yards, the aforementioned four touchdowns and three interceptions on defense.
The first score answered a touchdown on Crestview’s opening possession, running back Taylor Scarbrough giving his team a 7-0 lead early with a 1-yard touchdown dive. Dating to 2018’s 49-27 region final game, it was the fourth straight unanswered touchdown the Bulldogs had scored on Navarre — a fact not lost on the Raiders. It was an easy well to draw inspiration from during the week.
“You always talk to your players about stuff from the past,” Navarre coach Jay Walls said. “We just said, ‘Hey, this is a big rival now, it’s a district game and an opportunity for some payback.’”
Payback was had.
After Scarbrough scored his second touchdown of the night to tie the game 14-14 with 2:05 left in the first quarter, Navarre (6-4 overall, 3-3 District 1-7A) settled in. Senior quarterback Marlon Courtney needed just one play to retake the lead for good. A junior, Arno ran right past the Bulldog secondary for a wide-open 49-yard touchdown.
Five total first-half TDs
Courtney to Arno for 49
Navarre up 21-14 on Crestview. 17.2 left 1Q pic.twitter.com/Juk2gdfcQN
Courtney finished his night with 221 passing yards on just nine completions with six touchdown passes. He had just nine touchdown passes on the season when the game kicked off.
“It was a great job by our kids tonight, great job by the coaching staff,” Walls said. “We had a great gameplan and it all just worked out for us. This is the best game for us this year.”
Meanwhile, Crestview (5-4, 4-2) wouldn’t come within 30 yards of the end zone the rest of the night, turning the ball over five times, including four interceptions.
“It was just a country beat down, you know,” Crestview coach Tim Hatten said. “They just played a lot better than we did, and we’re not that bad. If they’d played like that all year, they’d be undefeated.”
STAT(S) OF THE NIGHT:
When the FHSAA released its RPI rankings Monday, Crestview ranked fifth overall in Region 1-7A with a .606 RPI after knocking off Lincoln 39-17 on Monday. Navarre ranked eighth with a .540 RPI after edging past Leon 31-28 the same day.
Eh, not quite.
If the playoffs had started Friday, both the Bulldogs and the Raiders would be seeded down one spot, given whichever team emerges atop the lackluster District 3-7A will receive the fourth seed by rule.
That would leave Navarre as the ninth seed and outside of the regional playoff for the first time under Walls’ leadership.
Beating Crestview on Friday was pivotal toward the Raiders sneaking into the big dance.
MVP: Tyler England, Navarre
Typically we pick an Offensive Player of the Game and a Defensive Player of the Game. England was both on Friday.
Wearing No. 2 on his back, the two-way star just made play after play.
“He’s been dang solid all year, just been playing hard,” Walls said. “He just finally put it all together.”
Just two plays after Courtney threw the go-ahead touchdown to Arno, England wrestled a jump ball away from Crestview receiver Trumel Isaacs, who is several inches taller.
Tyler England comes up with the INT to end the first quarter.
It was just first of three.
Raiders ball at Crestview’s 17 pic.twitter.com/jr14rT6qGw
“I was kinda playing slow, the defense was kinda playing slow and then it was just a huge momentum changer,” England said of the pick. “That just rolled the whole game, and it just kinda kept building off that. It was just play after play after play, offense, defense and special teams.”
Four plays after the interception, Courtney found senior Xayvion Thomas for a 17-yard score and a 28-14 lead.
“I thought little No. 2 was a heck of player for them,” Hatten said.
Tim Hatten has been a head coach for almost 30 years. That includes 11 years spent at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Mississippi, where he won an NJCAA National Championship in 2014.
He knows better than most that some nights you just don’t have it.
Friday was one of those nights.
“They made plays, we missed some assignments and it kinda snowballed on us a little bit,” he said. “We didn’t play good defense, didn’t play good offense, didn’t play good special teams. It was a total team collapse. We didn’t do a good job calling plays, didn’t do a good job getting ready obviously, but life goes on, man.”
After wrapping up their regular season with three wins in their past four games, the Raiders have nothing to do this coming Friday, so they will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off, Walls said, while they wait to hear of their playoff fate.
Crestview has just one game left on its schedule: Madison County, the reigning 1A state champions. The Bulldogs will play the Cowboys (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday on the road in Madison.
“It’s gonna be a tough game,” Hatten said.
- Crestview’s Taylor Scarbrough finished his night with 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 13 carries. A Dandy Dozen selection, he’s up to 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year.
- Navarre’s A.J. Arno proved effective through the air and on the ground Friday, rushing for a 48-yard touchdown in addition to his 49-yard touchdown reception.
- In Walls’ first seven seasons helming the Raiders, Navarre never finished the regular season with a non-winning record. Beating Crestview on Friday improved that mark to eight seasons. The Raiders also finished the regular season 6-4 in 2013 before beating Milton in the opening round of the playoffs.