BAKER — Baker has a target on its back.
Making last year's 1A state championship last year will do that. As will finishing 14-0 and holding a postseason ring ceremony.
Matt Brunson, who also led Crestview to the state title game in 2002, understands the attention that comes with a trip to Orlando's Citrus Bowl.
"Everybody's goal is to beat Baker and our guys understand that," he said. "We have a plan and vision of getting back to the state championship and we're just going to work backward to today to make sure that goal happens. This is a blue-collar group that's ready to get to work."
The work starts Friday night at Holmes County, the very same team the Gators defeated 30-14 to kick off last year's district and regional title run. But this isn't the Blue Devils crew that finished a solid but unspectacular 6-4 a year ago.
"They're a very athletic team with very good skill players," Brunson said. "They have eight, nine starters on defense returning and this should be a great 1A high school football game. Last year we played them Week 1 and Blountstown Week 2, so we hit the ground running with the schedule. This year's the same thing."
Brunson was encouraged by the 28-7 Kickoff Classic against Jay, which was the "guinea pig" for Baker's newfound vertical aerial attack. FYI, the run game is already prolific with the return of 1,000-yard backs Jalen Ciurleo (the reigning Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year) and McLaughlin.
"We were 8-11 for 193 yards through the air," Brunson said. "We wanted to establish the passing game and Kalee (Ciurleo) was 5 for 5 and (backup Junior McLaughlin) was 3-6. Our guys played extremely hard and kind of set the tone for the season."
Defensively, all the Gators allowed last Friday night was a 74-yard post route to the house.
"We'll clean up some things but so far I'm happy with what I've seen," Brunson said.