In my more than 13 years of covering sports in Okaloosa County I've often heard that Crestview High School's athletic program had the potential to be the area's best. But year in and year out, I've watched seasons of unfulfilled promises slip by.


In my more than 13 years of covering sports in Okaloosa County I've often heard that Crestview High School's athletic program had the potential to be the area's best.



But year in and year out, I've watched seasons of unfulfilled promises slip by.



Yes, there was the 2003 Bulldog football team that was the Class 3A runner up. And nobody can deny that Crestview baseball coach Tim Gillis consistently has one of the area's better teams.



Perhaps the greatest disappointments at Crestview High in recent years have been the boys and girls basketball teams. Anyone who has attended a Bulldog basketball game knows that has started to change.



Girls Coach Kathy Combest was a proven winner at Baker. In her second year with the Bulldogs she has shown the magic of hard work and tough love with a young team that has just two seniors.



First-year boys Coach Greg Watson walked into a great situation with a senior-laden team. Watson took the talented group and put his brand on the squad.



A guard during his playing days, Watson has preached physical toughness and aggressiveness inside, which plays to many of his key players' strengths.



Call it magic or good coaching, but both the Crestview boys and girls won 20 games this year. And the boys captured their first district championship in more than 20 years.



It also had been more than 20 years since either team won a playoff game, but that changed this season as the Crestview girls beat Leon and Fort Walton Beach before losing to Apopka Wekiva in the Class 7A region finals.



The boys won their region quarterfinal game over Leon on Thursday and hosted Lincoln Tuesday night in the region semifinals. A Bulldogs win and they will host the region final Saturday with a trip to the state finals on the line.



Some of the other CHS teams also have shown improvement.



Combest took the Bulldog volleyball team to the playoffs for the first time in several years. The football team, which was coming off back-to-back 4-6 seasons, improved to 5-5 under first-year coach Tim Hatten and, in the process, beat rival Niceville for the first time in more than 30 years.



One of the amazing things I've seen in all of this is the unity and bond that all of the teams share in support of one another. The Bulldog family is just that among all of the Crestview athletes.



For years, several Crestview area athletes have made the trip south on State Highway 85 to play ball for Niceville, Fort Walton Beach or Choctawhatchee. It's time for Crestview kids to stay in Crestview and get on board with what's happening at their hometown school.



A sleeping giant is waking up and the future looks bright for Crestview High School athletics.



Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletinís sports editor. Email him at randyd@crestviewbulletin.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.