For the first time in the short, but heated,
history of the Gulf Breeze-Navarre rivalry,
the two teams square off tonight knowing there's another game on the horizon.
Both Gulf Breeze and Navarre will be competing in playoff games next week -- the first time the two schools have been in the posteason for football in the same season.
But don't expect that to diminish tonight's matchup, which is for the Beach Bowl Cup and bragging rights between the neighboring communities.
For the Dolphins (7-2), it would be a fitting end to a season in which they've already knocked off the District 1-6A champion -- Milton.
"We have two games coming up that are extremely big for our program," Gulf Breeze coach Chris Nemith said. "We have Navarre, who is the 6A District 2 champion and a very good football team. It's a big game.
"We have to win that marquee game, and then we're going to line up against the No. 1 team in 5A (Wakulla). We're excited about that opportunity. This is what we've been working for all year, to play in games like this."
The Raiders (8-1) are riding a seven-game win streak heading into tonight's game and are looking to lock up the best regular-season finish in school history.
"The kids have worked hard and they're certainly excited about the playoffs, but not looking ahead at all," Navarre coach Jay Walls said. "It will be a big game; Gulf Breeze is a very good team."
Walls said the fact that this game is such a big rivalry, and has so much riding on it, has kept his team focused.
"A lot of these kids went to elementary school together," Walls said. "They've gone to middle school together at Woodlawn Middle. I think that makes it more of a rivalry. They've played each other over the years so much.
"I think that rivalry has helped keep us focused. I think these guys really care about the Beach Ball Cup. They care about the rivalry and bragging rights for a year. If it wasn't a natural rival we were playing this week, we might have that issue (of looking forward to the Pace playoff game)."
Tonight's matchup features one of the top defenses in the area against one of the best running games in the area. Navarre is giving up only 118.3 rushing yards per game, while Gulf Breeze is averaging 243.1 per game.
"They swarm the football and they tattoo you when they get there," Nemith said of the Raiders' defense. "They remind me of the Arizona football teams in the '90s -- the Desert Swarm teams.
"They are so physical and aggressive that they force you into some bad situations."
On the flip side, the Dolphins have been getting it done behind an offensive line that features a couple of Division I prospects in Alex Pagonis and Austin Droogsma.
"As far as their size, I would say Niceville would be comparable," Walls said. "Crestview and Pace, as well, are probably the top O-lines we've played so far. Gulf Breeze is right there with them.
"Their O-line is outstanding. And what they do offensively, they do such a good job of executing. It's going to be a challenge."