The Navarre Raiders are back in the region finals for the second time in three seasons.
Navarre used a big third quarter and outstanding defense and special teams to top Milton 20-12 on Friday night at Haywood Hanna Stadium.
The Raiders will host Lake City Columbia at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in the Region 1-6A final.
"There's no question, (the game) was very physical," Navarre coach Jay Walls said. "Milton did a great job defensively playing with their pads. There was a lot of hitting out there. It's the second round of the playoffs, and you could tell all the kids on both sides were playing that way."
Trailing 12-7 at halftime, Navarre came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter.
A big kick return from Nick Benton set the Raiders up at their own 42 to start their drive. Six plays later, they were in the end zone.
Facing second and 10 from the Milton 12, quarterback Andrew Rieves threw a perfect pass over the shoulder of Jordan Leggett in the right corner of the end zone to go up 14-12.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Raiders put on a punt block and got to the Milton punter.
Navarre's offense set up shop at the Milton 10, and two plays later, Rieves was in the end zone on a 5-yard run.
"Our offensive line held it down," Rieves said. "We knew if we could run the ball, we could win the game."
The Navarre defense took care of things from there.
The Raiders forced a pair of punts on the Panthers' next two drives before forcing a pair of turnovers to end the game.
First, Elijah Appel pulled in his second interception of the game, then the Raiders forced a Dejon Funderburk fumble to seal the win with just more than a minute remaining on the clock.
"I just knew I had to make plays because coach said this is one of the best receiving corps we'll ever face," Appel said of his big night. "I knew they were good, but I thought I could matchup against them. I just knew I had to make plays."
Milton took the early leading after scoring on its second drive of the game.
Andre Flakes showed his versatility pulling in a pass and running the ball twice, the second time finding the end zone from two yards out.
The extra point was blocked to make it 6-0 Milton.
But Navarre answered immediately with a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a jump pass from running back Johnny Robinson-Pettus to defensive lineman Christian Gill, who lined up at tight end on the play.
"I had been waiting for that all season," Robinson-Pettus said. "We put that in during the summer and held onto it all season.
"I told Gill to get in the back of the end zone, and I threw it up as high as I could and let him go get it."
For Gill, it was his first receiving touchdown of the season.
"I was a little nervous walking up to the line," Gill said. "But I knew it would work. It never failed in practice."
Milton added a touchdown just before the half on a four-yard run from Roy Wise to take the halftime lead 12-7, before Navarre took over the game.
Navarre moves on to face Lake City Columbia with several bumps and bruising. Most noteably, running back Jay Warren missed time late in the game with a shoulder issue.
Linebacker Devin Colonel missed the game after suffering a stinger in teh region quarterfinal win against Pace but expects to return next week.
Milton ends the season also banged up. Both Isaiah Jones and Flakes went down with injuries and missed significant playing time Friday night.
"It was a really physical game," Milton coach Chafan Marsh said. "We got dinged up; they had some kids dinged up, and it was a really physical game that came down to the last possession.
"It was just physical, physical, physical, and Navarre found a way to make more plays than we did."
NAVARRE 20, MILTON 12
Navarre...0 7 13 0 -- 20
Milton...6 6 0 0 -- 12
Mil -- Andre Flakes 2 run (kick block) 3:25
Nav -- Christian Gill 3 pass from Johnny Robinson-Pettus (Chandler Moorer kick) 11:56
Mil -- Roy Wise 4 run (kick fail) 0:32.5
Nav -- Jordan Leggett 12 pass from Andrew Rieves (Moorer kick) 8:36
Nav -- Rieves 5 run (pass fail) 5:25