Coach Tim Hatten: “Sometimes we make it difficult to shake off mistakes, but we’re glad to be one of eight, man."
CRESTVIEW — Wednesday, Tim Hatten said the magic number was 35.
If the Crestview football team was going to get a victory Friday night, it needed 35 points.
Standing around the 30-yard line of Jack Foster Stadium after the game Friday night, Hatten, the Bulldogs coach, pointed at the scoreboard: Bulldogs 44, Escambia 34.
“I think it would have worked,” Hatten said with a chuckle. “It woulda worked.”
The score was one of only a handful of things Hatten and his staff could laugh at following their region semifinal victory Friday night. Hatten told his team in the postgame huddle he wished he could tell them it was good game, but after almost giving the game away, there was a lot to work on in the coming week.
After entering halftime with a 13-10 deficit, the Bulldogs roared out to a 23-13 lead in the first four minutes of the second half. The momentum had seemingly swung the Bulldogs' direction.
That momentum disappeared as quickly as Escambia receiver Jacob Copeland ran on a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Two Escambia scoop-and-score touchdowns later, the Bulldogs were down 34-23 with only the fourth quarter to play and some change to play.
Bulldogs offensive lineman Luther Fagalima jogged down the sideline swinging his arms in the air.
“Let’s keep pushing,” he said. “Let’s keep pushing through.”
Hatten walked in the other direction.
“We gotta play fast now,” he shouted.
Even if it took a miracle, the Bulldogs weren't about to give up.
Quarterback Rod Bouchard and his brother, Milton, made a little miracle happen.
Facing third down with their playoff lives on the operating table, Rod heaved a jump ball to Milton along the left side. With his arms wrapped tightly around it, Milton wrestled it away from a Gator defender for a 28-yard gain.
Typically, Rod targets one of the three Voisin brothers when drops back. Friday, he found Milton open more often then not. In addition to his 28-yarder, Milton caught a 62-yard pass in the seam to set up a field goal before halftime.
“They just locked them up, so it opened up plays for me,” Milton said.
Three plays later, Rod hit Devin Voisin in the back of the end zone.
On the ensuing Gator drive, the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out, and running back Jay Stanton mashed his way into the end zone to take a 37-34 lead Crestview would not surrender.
With 15 seconds to play D’Marcus Purcell iced the game with pick six, the Bulldogs’ third interception of the game.
“Sometimes we make it difficult to shake off mistakes, but we’re glad to be one of eight, man,” Hatten said.
The Bulldogs’ second playoff game opened similarly to its first. Bouchard underthrew a pass intended for Jaden Voisin on Crestview’s opening drive, which was intercepted by Copeland, a four-star prospect. Earlier in the week, Hatten called Copeland the best player in the panhandle.
Escambia turned the mistake into points. Quarterback Av Smith rolled to his right and connected with Fred Culliver through double coverage for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
After a Bulldog three-and-out, it looked as if the Crestview defense was about to make something happen. After Jaden Voisin forced Smith out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage, the Gators faced third-and-17. Smith unleashed a bomb, connecting with a streaking Steven Mcghee down the right sideline for a 60-yard gain. Three plays later, the Gators were back in the end zone with a 13-0 lead and 1:23 left in the first quarter.
Things didn’t get much better at the start of the second. After a long drive, the Bulldogs’ first into Escambia territory, punter Blake Vann was hit on fourth down, allowing the Gators to recover the ball at their own 47.
Although they appeared faster and better prepared than a week ago, the Bulldogs could not get anything going.
And then they did.
Three plays later, linebacker Mondreus Flavors intercepted Smith over the middle. Six plays and a fourth-and-14 conversion later, Stanton pounded the ball across the goal line for Crestview’s first touchdown.
A 21-yard field goal as the clock expired sent the Bulldogs to the locker room with a three-point deficit.
Up next, Crestview travels to St. Augustine for a 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff. The Yellow Jackets bounced Crestview from the playoffs during last year's region semifinal.
“We have a very big challenge ahead of us,” Hatten said. “Very big challenge.”