“We’re by no means a finished product, but we’re by no means where we were four years ago. We’ve come forward light years in the way we conduct our business."
CRESTVIEW — The Bulldogs felt disrespected.
The Viking fans who made their way up to Crestview for Friday night’s game wanted only to make their presence felt, chanting and shouting as Fort Walton Beach lined up for the opening kickoff.
“Everywhere we go, the people wanna know who we are,” they chanted from the visitor stands. “So we tell them.”
The Bulldogs didn’t wait for the Vikings to tell them anything. In a 56-14 running-clock victory against Fort Walton Beach, Crestview showed everyone in Jack Foster Stadium exactly what the Bulldogs were and what the Vikings weren’t.
The Bulldogs needed only five plays and two minutes to show them. Bulldog quarterback Rod Bouchard opened the game with a 41-yard pass to Keon Voisin. Four plays later, Bouchard carried the ball through a pile of Vikings for a 2-yard score and a 7-0 lead Crestview never relinquished.
Bulldogs coach Tim Hatten said the quick start likely didn’t matter with how successful his team was executing in every in phase.
“I think it’s important that you’re successful,” Hatten said. “I think our team is resilient. I think we played well when we started slow against Milton. I think we take advantage of some things they give us no matter who we’re playing.”
For the second week in a row, a dominant performance from the opposing halfback frustrated Fort Walton Beach (3-4 overall, 0-2 District 3-6A), and for the second week in a row, the Vikings gave up a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
Named as the Daily News’ Athlete of the Week for his performance against Milton, Crestview running back Jay Stanton carried the ball 16 times in the first half for 97 yards and a touchdown he pounded in from 3 yards out as the Crestview band played WWE star John Cena’s theme song.
Stanton finished with 144 yards on 19 carries.
Against Gulf Breeze a week ago, Fort Walton Beach was on the wrong end of a Hail Mary as the clock ran out in the first half. It changed the tone of the game.
Fort Walton Beach coach Phil Dorn said the team had worked to correct its mistake during the week, but Friday was no different.
With a 1:13 left in the first half, the Bulldogs (6-0, 2-0) capped a 71-yard drive with Bouchard’s second rushing touchdown of the night. Bouchard scrambled 14 yards and dove at the goal line, stretching his arm so the nose of the ball broke the plane and most of whatever chance Fort Walton Beach had of coming back.
Bouchard totaled 294 yards through the air in a five-touchdown Friday-night display.
“We just had really good play calling, and I mean, we have tremendous athletes on the outside,” Bouchard said. “(Receiver) Keon Voisin, I hit him about what felt like 20 times, and he ran forever.”
Close. Bouchard hit Voisin seven times on 11 targets, including a 45-yard catch-and-run score on third down to move the score to 42-7.
Bouchard’s Viking counterpart, Brendon Carter, was harassed all night. Twice the Bulldogs brought the 6-foot-1 quarterback to the ground on sacks that stalled a pair of first half drives.
Carter went 4-of-7 with 33 yards and a fourth-quarter pick-six.
Vikings lead running back Kenyon Redmon was equally stifled. Save for an 82-yard touchdown run to open the second half, Redmon gained 77 hard-earned yards on his other 16 carries.
The Bulldogs will get the week off before they take on Niceville at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in Eagles Stadium.
Fort Walton Beach gets no such break. The Vikings return home to play Bay at 7 p.m. Friday.
They are teams on quickly diverging paths.
Having lost two straight, the Vikings are likely to find themselves well outside projected playoff berth come midweek when the rankings are released.
Heading to Eagles Stadium in two weeks, undefeated Crestview controls its own playoff destiny. And after a complete, dominant showing against the Vikings, Hatten said he thinks his team still has room to improve.
“We’re still working some kinks out,” Hatten said. “We’re by no means a finished product, but we’re by no means where we were four years ago. We’ve come forward light years in the way we conduct our business. That comes with continuity.”
That continuity has created confidence deserving of respect.
“We’re just gonna mentally prepare,” Bouchard said. “We’re gonna go into the game having confidence, knowing no one’s really better than us.”