CRESTVIEW — In his first year at the helm, Crestview football head coach and athletic director Tim Hatten isn’t making postseason promises.


CRESTVIEW — In his first year at the helm, Crestview High School football head coach and athletic director Tim Hatten isn’t making postseason promises.



Today, he’s not ready to talk depth charts and position battles on a unit he hasn’t seen in action outside off-season conditioning and a spring game.



Instead, the man who led Pearl River (Miss.) Community College to a collective 80-30 record over 11 seasons and a National Junior College Athletic Association national title in 2004 focuses on one aspect: competition.



“The No. 1 goal is to field a competitive team,” he said, adding the Bulldogs have a noticeably tough schedule that excludes typical four-to-five “winnable” games. “We expect to be competitive. Do we expect to win every game? No. But ... I do see 10 very competitive ball games.



“We can’t promise anything beyond that. We’d love to be a championship program, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we won every game we played. But I’d also not be surprised if we lost more than we won.”



Instead, the man who led Pearl River (Miss.) Community College to a collective 80-30 record over 11 seasons and a National Junior College Athletic Association national title in 2004 focuses on one aspect: competition.



Hatten said he wants the two straight 4-6 campaigns to be a thing of the past.



With the new three-team District 1-7A, which comprises rival Niceville and Tate, Hatten acknowledges that a winning record won’t necessarily punch the Bulldogs’ first postseason ticket since 2010. And vice versa.



“You can have a losing season and still make the playoffs if you win the right games,” he said.
“... That’s always a goal: ... make the postseason, whether you play Little League, junior high, high school, junior college or Division 1 football.”



An obstacle in the way of that goal — a big one — is Niceville, which Hatten credits for being well coached and creating a successful environment. However, pertaining to the lack of recent and prolonged success against the Eagles — 6-0 against Crestview since 2007, including last season’s 42-7 win — Hatten doesn’t see disparity in talent as the main reason behind the losing skid.



“I’ve had the fortune of recruiting the Panhandle, and I’ve seen the talent level at both schools, and there’s not a big difference,” he said. “In fact, there’s been years like last year where you could argue Crestview had better players. But you can lose a ballgame for a lot of reasons.



“But I don’t put a lot of stock in the past, and we’re hoping to bring something different to the table this season.”



Getting over the hump



For the past two seasons, the only thing standing in the way of Baker School and a postseason berth was a one-possession loss to Freeport.



Last year it was a 41-34 loss.



The year before it was a 17-14 defeat.



Those two losses, coupled with an eight-point defeat the year before, have given Freeport five straight wins over the Gators since 2004.



A part of the last two defeats was third-year head coach Matt Brunson, who must again deal with Freeport in a District 1-1A setting that includes defending state champion Northview and Jay.



“We’re very hungry to get back to playoffs,” said Brunson, whose Gators haven’t made the postseason since 2008 and haven’t won a district title since 2001. “We need to take care of business against Jay and Freeport and bridge that gap between us and Northview.”



A key to stopping Freeport will be containing former Daily News Male Athlete of the Year and quarterback Gabe Moore, who Brunson “called an international talent” after being the top American finisher in the July International Association of Athletics Federations’World Youth Championships octathlon.



Brunson also has offensive weapons, including running back D.J. Thomas.



“He’s a very hard-nosed runner that takes care of the football,” Brunson said. “This year he’s bigger, stronger, faster and we’re expecting a lot from him.”



The road to success starts today.



“We’re ready to get out there and get going,” Brunson said. “These kids are awesome.”