NAVARRE – Marlon Courtney has seen the level of effort and execution it takes to be a championship-caliber team.
And Friday night in the season opener against rival Gulf Breeze, Navarre’s senior quarterback didn’t quite see it.
Despite continuing the Raiders’ dominance of their Beach Bowl rivalry with the Dolphins with a 28-21 win, Courtney wasn’t satisfied.
So, his focus this week is taking that next step towards becoming a championship squad when they play host to another Santa Rosa county foe in the Pace Patriots.
“It felt good to win against Gulf Breeze, but after our overall performance I’m not too satisfied because I don’t think that team should have been able to compete with us for four quarters,” said Courtney, who passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 50 yards and two more scores. “I think we need to go back to the drawing board and fix what we did wrong.”
It was definitely one of those typical season openers for the Raiders, filled with several moments of brilliance. But it also had its share of uncharacteristic struggles.
“We played really good at times defensively, but again we gave up some big plays here and there,” Walls said. “I’m just proud of the effort. When you’re playing early, it’s not like later on when you’ve had some time to get better and execution gets better. In the season opener, anything can happen.”
The Raiders jumped out to the early lead by taking advantage of a Gulf Breeze fumble on the first play from scrimmage. And Navarre twice led by two touchdowns in the contest before the Dolphins clawed their way back into the game.
The Dolphins trailed 28-21 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter and were attempting to tie the game when Trent Hall came up with his second turnover of the night, leaping in the air to pull down an interception.
“It’s definitely going to set the tone for the season,” Hall said of the win. “It’s going to carry us a long way, beating our rivals in the first game of the season.”
The Raiders now set their sights on a Patriots team coming off a tough loss against Choctaw in their opener.
“We have to clean things up,” Walls said. “We had opportunities to do more, in all three phases of the game. We had a lot of penalties in the kicking game. We have to clean that up, but the effort was there.
“Pace has always played us tough, especially with their running game. I’m sure that they are going to be chomping at the bit.”