Usually I'd be writing a column today about the start of spring football practice. Spring football, at least for today, will take a back seat to the Crestview High School baseball team. The Bulldogs, who won the District 2-6A championship Thursday, host Tate tonight at 7 p.m. in the region quarterfinals.
Usually I'd be writing a column today about the start of spring football practice.
Yes, new Crestview High School head football coach Tim Hatten will lead the Bulldogs onto the practice field at 2:30 p.m. for the first official practice of his regime.
Up the road, at Baker School, Matt Brunson begins his third year at the Gatorsí helm.
I'll be at both schools today to look at how things are taking shape on the gridiron, but football won't be my priority.
Spring football, at least for today, will take a back seat to the Crestview High School baseball team.
The Bulldogs, who won the District 2-6A championship Thursday, host Tate tonight at 7 p.m. in the region quarterfinals.
I've been covering Crestview baseball since I arrived in the area in 2001. I've been covering the Bulldogs closely since 2005 or 2006.
It's hard to compare teams from different years. Players and competition change, but good baseball doesn't.
There is no doubt that Crestview has a very good baseball team.
The Bulldogs finished regular season district play with a 4-4 record. Crestview was 8-4 after losing to Fort Walton Beach on March 15. Since losing to the Vikings, the Bulldogs have won 13 of their last 14 games.
Crestview has won in every way imaginable. Some games, the Bulldogs have made it look easy, scoring early and often. And there have been games when they came from behind to claim victory when defeat seemed almost certain.
If you like pitching, the Bulldogs have that. If you like hitting, they've got you covered. And if defense is your thing, this is probably the best defensive team I've seen at Crestview.
The most impressive things I've witnessed about this team are the genuine team unity and the teamís will to find a way to win.
A different player seems to step up every night.
Tate Sweatt and Roman Donofro answered the call in the 6-0 district semifinal win over Niceville. Sweatt had a pair of two-run doubles and Donofro threw a complete game shutout.
Davis Champion and Dakota Dean were big in the 3-2 district championship win over Mosley. Although giving up 11 hits, Champion wouldn't be denied as he picked up the win on the mound.
Dean was 2-for-3 with a triple and run scored. Dean wasn't the lone Bulldog hitter to step up in clutch time. Sweatt, Donofro and Corey Armstrong also came up big at the plate when the game was on the line.
Crestview's defense came up big against the Dolphins with a couple of double plays and by throwing a runner out at home as he tried to score on a base hit to right field.
Bulldog right fielder Justin Rebholz fielded the ball cleanly and threw a strike to first baseman Seth Thomason, who made a perfect relay throw to catcher Austin Armstrong for the out.
And those two games are just a sample of how this team has pulled together.
Tyler Henderson has been a beast at the plate and in center field and has come up big on many occasions. Thomason has been a clutch hitter in the cleanup spot as he is tied for the team lead in doubles and had a dramatic game-winning grand slam against Niceville on March 8.
Tonight's game with Tate could turn out to be another classic in a line of classic games for the Bulldogs this year.
With seven state championships to their credit, the Aggies have a baseball tradition that is second-to-none in Northwest Florida. Crestview, nor any other high school baseball team from Okaloosa County, has ever won a state championship.
But the Bulldogs aren't playing the Aggie tradition.
Tate (21-6) won't be sending Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton or former Major Leaguers Travis Fryman and Jay Bell into the game against the Bulldogs.
Tradition is a great conversation piece, but players win the games.
Crestview's players have answered every challenge this year, and tonight, the biggest challenge of all awaits them.
I encourage everyone to come out and support the Bulldogs. Take my advice and get there early because it will be a packed house.
I'll see you at the game.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletinís sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.