“Any time you can win two district championships in a row, you gotta be happy about it.”

NICEVILLE — Across from the Crestview sideline, the Niceville students sported white T-shirts emblazoned with “Redemption” in maroon letters.

They wanted to avenge a loss to Crestview in the district title game a year ago.

If there was any redemption Friday night in Eagle Stadium, it came from Bulldog running back Jay Stanton.

In a 35-18 Crestview victory Friday night, Stanton’s final touchdown with two minutes to play iced the game and gave the Bulldogs their second straight District 3-6A championship.

It came four minutes after his biggest blunder.

With Crestview up 28-18, Stanton fumbled at his own 32. Niceville came up with the ball and a new lease on life.

Stanton and Crestview coach Tim Hatten both said he should have been down.

“The ball left my hands, but my butt was on the ground,” Stanton said. “It hurt. That possession we could have put the dagger in ’em real quick.”

The Bulldog defense bailed out its offense as it had done most of the night.

Niceville quarterback Jack White was baited into and interception and threw the ball right to Keon Voisin around the 18.

The Bulldogs (7-0 overall, 3-0 District 3-6A) and Eagles (6-2, 2-1) traded three-and-outs before Stanton got his chance. Facing third-and-19, Bouchard connected with Jaden Voisin to set up first down at Niceville’s 19.

Stanton’s number was called.

“I just seen a hole,” Stanton said.

He exploded through it. Seeing nothing but green grass, he raced into the end zone. Minutes later the Bulldogs were posing in front of the scoreboard, Hatten kneeling in the center, throwing up two fingers. In only his fifth season with Crestview, he has two district championships.

Stanton finished the game with 19 carries for 141 yards, two touchdowns and the fumble.

Each yard was a battle. The Bulldogs offensive line, which Niceville coach John Hicks lauded as Crestview’s chief strength leading up to the game, was seemingly blown up every other play. Bouchard was sacked five times and hurried much of the night.

Stanton said the Eagle defense was likely the best Crestview had played all year.

After Stanton’s touchdown, the Bulldog defense finished off the game, ensuring Niceville never sniffed the end zone as the clock ticked down to 0:00.

“I feel like we did good,” defensive end Tyree Johnson said.

They did, stifling Niceville quarterback Will Koch, driving the Eagle offense back as often as they could. Koch finished 6-of-12 for 59 yards and a fumble in the second quarter. He didn’t throw a pass in the fourth quarter, ceding his position to White.

In the Eagles’ previous game against Choctaw, Koch totaled 264 yards and four passing touchdowns.

“I thought we played pretty good,” Hatten said. “I thought they did a good job, and I’m proud of the effort our boys gave.”

The game’s first two drives were without incident, seemingly setting the tone for a defensive struggle. Niceville opened with an eight-play drive that was halted with a fourth-and-1 stop at the Bulldogs’ 25.

Crestview went three-and-out after a first-down penalty.

Then things got a little crazy.

After an intentional grounding penalty set up fourth-and-26 from its own 30, Niceville lined up for its second punt.

The Crestview sideline bellowed for the punt block team.

Johnson answered the call, leaping and swatting the ball back toward the end zone. Niceville’s punter raced backward only to have Voisin shove him out of the ball’s path as it bounced toward the goal line.

Johnson fell on it.

“I was just tryin’ to go after the ball,” Johnson said. “It felt good. I just seen open field opportunity.”

The Crestview sideline, their fans, anyone wearing Bulldog red who had made the 20-mile drive, erupted, jumping to their feet and screaming as loud as they could.

7-0 Bulldogs.

The play seemed to awaken a sluggish Crestview team, answering Hatten’s early pleas from the sideline of “Don’t go to sleep.”

Niceville responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Koch dove across the goal line from a yard out to even the score at 7. It was his only score of the night.

Niceville running back Brooks Alexander scored the Eagles’ only other touchdown Friday on a 1-yard carry in the third quarter.

Crestview scored twice more before halftime.

First it was Stanton rumbling toward the end zone and diving at the goal line after a 21-yard scamper. He had picked up three of the Bulldogs’ first downs on the drive as Crestview got its ground attack going.

Later, facing second-and-21, Bouchard heaved a prayer down the right sideline to Devin Voisin who came down with the 30-yard touchdown.

Up next, Niceville hits the road to play Navarre at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Crestview hosts the International School of Broward at 7 p.m. in Jack Foster Stadium.

Although Hatten was proud of his team’s victory, he said there is still work to be done.

“I don’t think we played our best game,” Hatten said. “We had a turnover, a couple sacks, big stupid penalties. Didn’t play our best game, but we played good enough to beat a quality team.

“Any time you can win two district championships in a row, you gotta be happy about it.”