Niceville runs for a gain against the Navarre defense.

The stadium lights flickered on, and the Nest slowly came to life around six as the Eagles prepared for their final opponent of the 2023 regular season – the Navarre Raiders. 

Coming off of a narrow 28-29 loss against Mosley last Thursday, their first loss to the Dolphins in a decade, the Eagles wanted to end the season on a high note.

The Raiders would put up a strong fight in the first half – but the latter half of the game would see the Eagles pull away to a 63-34 victory. 

Within the first few minutes of the first quarter, 7 points were added to the scoreboard, courtesy of Navarre’s Hunter Pfiester and kicker Tyler Daniell. 

The Eagles struck back moments later with a touchdown by DJ Robinson, the first of five touchdowns during this game alone for the senior.

The second quarter got underway, with the score tied at 7-7. However, following the pattern of the previous quarter, Navarre’s Hunter Pfiester completed a 56-yard pass to Terence Marshall for a touchdown, putting Navarre ahead by 7 points. The back and forth continued 5 minutes later when Niceville’s DJ Robinson grabbed another touchdown for the Eagles. 

Navarre’s Hunter Pfiester struck back with another touchdown strike through the air to Terence Marshall for the Raider’s third touchdown of the night. 

The final five minutes of the first half were packed full of action and excitement from both teams. Niceville’s DJ Robinson scored a third touchdown, tying the score at 21-21. Niceville added seven more points to the board after a touchdown by Caden Bridgeman and a successful point-after kick by Logan Marise. 

Navarre ended the game on a Terence Marshall touchdown to leave

the scoreboard displaying a nail-biting score of 28-28 as the players headed to the locker room for halftime.

Niceville Breaks Away From Navarre In An Explosive Second Half

The Niceville Eagles Cheerleading Squad amps up the crowd in the stadium.

The halftime show started with an outstanding performance by Navarre High School’s marching band. When the Raider’s band concluded their show, the Eagle Pride took the field. Given that it was the final

home game of the season, the Eagle Pride took a moment during their performance to recognize each senior member of the band, majorettes, color guard, and drum majors.

Once Niceville’s award-winning band exited the field, the second half of the game got underway. The quarter started with the student section’s colorful tradition of silly string and colored chalk, creating a beautiful explosion commemorating the final home game. 

Just moments after the kickoff, Niceville’s DJ Shorts cruised into the endzone for a 41-yard rushing touchdown. Five minutes later, the Eagles

intercepted a Navarre pass, giving Niceville possession on Navarre’s 20-yard line. Following the interception, the Eagles’ scoring machine, DJ Robinson, earned another touchdown for the Flying N. 

Immediately afterward, Navarre turned possession over on downs, paving the way for DJ Robinson’s fifth touchdown, leaving the scoreboard displaying a comfortable 49-28 lead for the Eagles. The

Navarre got six points back on the efforts of Hunter Pfiester for the final score of the third quarter. 

The Eagles led the Raiders 49-34 as the teams entered the final quarter of play. The final quarter of the game saw two more touchdowns for the Eagles. The first was courtesy of Maddax Fayard, followed by a successful point after kick by Logan Marise. 

With just a few minutes left in the game and the 2023 regular season, Niceville’s DJ Shorts scored one last touchdown, sealing a 63-34 win for the Eagles.

The Playoffs: What Happens Next?

For the seniors, it could be their last time playing a game under the lights of Eagle Stadium, as game location during playoffs is contingent on bracket standings. Longtime football coach and member of Niceville High’s 1988 State Champion team, Coach Adron Robinson, said the current senior class is “one of the more successful senior classes that we’ve had in Niceville Football history.”

The big win for the Eagles also served as Head Coach Grant Thompson’s 50th — a major milestone in Thompson’s 5-year career with the Eagles. Coach Thompson said he “had no idea that [he] had won that many games because it’s not about [him] it’s about the organization… it’s our
50th win”.

Given that the 50-win milestone was reached within five years, the program has averaged “10 wins a year, which is a big deal in high school football”.

The Eagles will continue pursuing success in the postseason as they advance into the playoffs. The date and location of the upcoming playoff game are currently undetermined, as the playoff bracket has
yet to be finalized – the FHSAA will release the brackets on Sunday, November 5.

Logan Marise makes another kick for points. The Eagles turned on the scoring in the second half.

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