Every. Game. Matters.

That was the message FHSAA sent across the Sunshine State when it announced a change to its playoff system. And it goes double for district tilts, where no longer the district runner-up is guaranteed a regional playoff spot.

Crestview head coach Tim Hatten understands this. The same goes for Choctaw head coach Greg Thomas.

So when Crestview hosts District 3-6A rival Choctaw at Jack Foster Stadium Friday night, is it considered must-win territory? Well, no. But in the fight for the automatic playoff berth, it's pretty close.

"There's a huge prize for winning district because nothing else is guaranteed," Hatten said. "We want to be undefeated in district play up until the final game. That's what you play for."

"It's not just district play but every game," said Thomas, whose program has beaten Crestview three of the last four years but lost 61-40 at home last year. "That win Friday night has never been so important, and with district games that's most true."

Crestview, Thomas said, "is right where they left off last year" after a 10-2 campaign where the Bulldogs ran the table in district play.

The Bulldogs are 3-0 and have routed Bay (37-2), St. Martin (32-0) and, most recently, West Florida (38-20).

The defense, led by Taurean Mays' two sacks last week, has scored more touchdowns (three) than it has allowed (two) and is forcing more than three turnovers a game.

The offense is multi-faceted, featuring Jay Stanton and Tyree Johnson in the backfield and quarterback Rod Bouchard with the Voisin brothers — Keon, Devin and Jaden — at his disposal at wideout.

Stanton, with Johnson sidelined last week, piled up 175 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against West Florida. Bouchard threw for 278 yards and had four touchdowns — two to Jaden, one to Devin and the other a rushing touchdown.

"They have athletes all over the field," Thomas said. "They're big, they're strong, they're fast and they're tough. There's no area where they won't match up well against a team. It'll be a huge challenge for us."

Hatten said the key for Crestview, which boasts an offensive line featuring 6-foot-3 giants Bryson Norris, Weston Tew and Luther Fagalima, is to avoid the turnovers — like a missed assignment last week that resulted in a pick-six or Bouchard's interception in the end zone.

"We got some more bullets to put in the gun," he said. "We haven't even shown how good this offense is."

As hot is Crestview is, Choctaw (2-3) was the only area team to pull down two wins last week. First came Monday's 48-13 running-clock rout of Pensacola Catholic at home. Then on Friday the Indians bulldozed Pace in a 49-21 win at Joe Etheredge Stadium.

Two wins. 97 points.

At the center of the prolific offense is quarterback Brady Ooten, who piled up 666 yards and nine touchdowns during the 2-0 week. He now has 1238 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air and
213 yards and four scores on the ground. Zailes Alexander caught four of those touchdowns last week, emerging as Ooten's go-to weapon next to Markus Maloy and Xavier Cain-Fuller.

Meanwhile, Mario Banks and Reggie Fain, the latter with two scores last week, have emerged in the backfield for a ground game that's finally moving the chains.

"I think the offensive line is finding itself and we're doing a better job of running the football and becoming a little more balanced," Thomas said.

Hatten, whose team gave up a 66-yard touchdown run and 60-yard kickoff return last week, said the key defensively is to "eliminate the big plays."

"They have some big-play threats, so we just need to limit what those guys can do and stick to our assignments," Hatten said.

Thomas, meanwhile, said the key defensively is to convert on the third down stops.

"We struggled to get off the field the first three weeks," he said. "We've done a better job of making that stop the last two weeks and that's given us some confidence."

From 0-3 to 2-3, Hatten sees a formidable opponent in Choctaw.

"It'll be a challenge," Hatten said. "With district, you have to be ready for everything and we're not taking them lightly."