CRESTVIEW — There were great expectations for the Crestview football team as the Bulldogs prepared for the 2012 season.
Kevin Pettis, back for his second year as head coach, was ready to put a 4-6 season from 2011 in the rearview mirror.
There were many reasons to be optimistic.
Senior tailback Micah Reed had already committed to play football at the University of Central Florida next fall. Even more impressive was outside linebacker/defensive end Dillan Lawson’s pledge to play for the Florida Gators.
However, Reed and Lawson were hardly the only players on a roster that seemed loaded with talent at every position.
Tyler Henderson, a Division I prospect, anchored the Crestview defensive secondary at safety. Dakota Dean and Jalynne Robinson filled rover positions and Kyle Koontz and Justin Rebholz looked to be terrors at linebacker.
If Lawson needed help up front, junior defensive lineman Denzel Ware was poised for a big year of his own and in fact did commit to play for Florida State University when he graduates in 2014.
Transfer Dakota Davis was ready to take over for Dean at quarterback so Dean could play numerous positions on both sides of the ball. And if Micah Reed needed a breather, he’d simply look to his younger brother, Emmanuel, a sophomore running back, as the Reed brothers looked to give Crestview one of the best running back tandems in Northwest Florida.
All of the hype seemed to be falling into place when the Bulldogs opened the season with a 24-14 win over Milton and followed it up with 35-7 beat down of Escambia.
Off to a 2-0 start, the Bulldogs were flying high as they hosted state powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles for the Hall of Fame Game in the season’s third week.
Crestview played Bolles close, but the visitors took a 20-14 win out of Jack Foster Stadium as the Bulldogs started what would be a four-game losing streak that also would see Lawson dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.
Week four saw Crestview travel to Pensacola to take on Catholic. The Crusaders capitalized on multiple Bulldog mistakes as Catholic rolled to a 28-7 win.
Crestview returned home to Jack Foster Stadium in week five to host Tallahassee Godby for Homecoming — and there wasn’t much to cheer about for the Bulldogs as the Cougars put up a 49-14 win.
The Bulldogs jumped into District 2-6A play in week six hosting Fort Walton Beach, but even the district play’s start didn’t stop the Bulldog skid as the Vikings won 21-17.
After four straight losses, the Bulldogs headed to Choctawhatchee and pulled out a 28-24 win, making their record 3-4 overall and 1-1 in district play.
With three weeks left in the season, there was still plenty to play for as Navarre came to town for a big district game in week eight.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs led the Raiders 8-7 and it looked as if Crestview’s fortunes were changing, but Navarre drove the field’s length, scored a touchdown and took a 13-8 win.
A 39-7 win over Mosley in week nine kept Crestview’s playoff hopes alive as the Bulldogs hosted Niceville in the season’s 10th week.
A Bulldog win, coupled with a Choctaw win over Fort Walton Beach, would give Crestview second place in the district behind Navarre.
But the season that started with so much promise ended in disappointment as the Eagles beat the Bulldogs 42-7.
Two years into the Kevin Pettis era at Crestview, the Bulldogs are 8-12 overall and 4-6 in District 2-6A play, having failed to make playoffs each year.
On a more positive note, Micah Reed finished the year with more than 1,000 yards rushing, and Ware has become one of the most sought after juniors in this part of the state. And, as expected, Henderson and Dean had big years for the Crestview defense.
There are many questions to answer as the Bulldogs prepare for offseason workouts. Emmanuel Reed, Ware and Robinson proved their potential as leaders on next year’s team, but the other guys’ roles have yet to be determined.
There is a lot of work to do in the months ahead if the Bulldogs are to compete for a playoff spot in the always tough District 2-6A.
Pettis has produced winners at every stop of his coaching career and 2013 could be a make-or-break year for him if the Bulldogs fail to get to the playoffs for a third straight year.
Contact News Bulletin Sports Editor Randy Dickson at 682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BigRandle.