PENSACOLA — Trailing 14-0 at the start of the second half, the Crestview High School football team came roaring back against Pine Forest on Friday.
Sparked by a strong defense and a balanced offense, the Bulldogs scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to leave Pensacola with a 22-14.
“We are a work in progress and we probably will be until the end of the season,” Crestview Coach Tim Hatten said. “We just have to learn from our mistakes and keep on pushing. We do a lot of things – we don’t do a lot of things good, but we do a lot of different things.
“I think it helped us tonight because we mixed some things up and we mixed some personnel up and we played pretty good defense.”
It was the defense – with a little help from Pine Forest – that picked up the first Bulldog score of the game early in the second half.
The Bulldogs knocked the Eagles backwards on back-to-back plays on the first Pine Forest possession of the second half. An incomplete pass set up a fourth down and 22 from the Eagle 8-yard line.
Pine Forest misplayed the snap on the punt and the ball went through the end zone for a Bulldog safety.
The Crestview offense did the rest of the damage.
After running just 17 plays for 39 yards in the first half the Bulldogs (3-4) controlled the game in the second half.
Sophomore quarterback Corey Armstrong was 5-of-6 passing for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the final 24 minutes.
With 45 seconds left in the third quarter, Armstrong connected with Ronnie Baylark from 19 yards. Tyler Hancock added the extra point to pull the Bulldogs within five points of the Eagles.
It was Armstrong to Emmanuel Reed for a 67-yard scoring strike on Crestview’s next possession. The Bulldogs went for two and the conversion failed with 9:15 left in the fourth quarter. Crestview had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Crestview’s defense continued to flex its muscle when it forced an Eagle fumble that was recovered by Blayze Spencer to set up the final score.
The Bulldogs put the final nail in the victory when Armstrong teamed up with Baylark on a 15-yard pass with 2:29 left in the game. The score came on a fourth down play as Hatten rolled the dice going for six instead of a modest 32-yard field goal attempt.
Baylark had three receptions for 45 yards and the two touchdowns. Reed had two catches for 64 yards and led the Bulldogs in rushing with 86 yards on 16 carries. Armstrong was 6-of-10 passing for 115 yards.
Crestview finished the night with 230 yards in total offense with 115 yards through the air and 115 yards on the ground.
In the first half the Bulldogs were their own worst enemies as a pair of turnovers led to Pine Forest touchdowns.
Jeremiah Jackson intercepted a halfback option pass by Reed with 4:40 left in the first quarter and returned it to the Crestview 44.
Three plays later Reid Gilliland connected with Kenneth Burroughs on a 40-yard strike.
Pine Forest (0-7) was dealt a big blow to its offense when Gilliland was knocked out of the game midway through the second quarter.
Shortly after Gilliland went down the Bulldogs muffed a punt that was recovered by Pine Forest and led to the final Eagle score of the game, an 11-yard run by Jerome Brown.
The Pine Forest offense gained 161 yards in the first half, but could only manage 34 yards in offense the second half against the swarming Bulldog defense.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.