CRESTVIEW — When Crestview High School's football team beat Niceville 17-12 on Friday, it set off a celebration more than 30 years in the making.
Prior to Friday’s win over the Eagles, the Bulldogs had not beaten Niceville since 1982. That span of 31 years is literally a lifetime.
Crestview defensive backs Coach Tim Gillis was a sophomore on the 1982 team. His son, Matt, is a senior on this year’s team.
“Obviously, because it’s Niceville, everybody gets caught up in the 30 years,” Tim Gillis said. “Like I’ve said many times, it’s not like we have played 30 years in a row, but it has been a long time.
“It was exciting. It was exciting for the players and for the community, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Bulldog defensive coordinator Thomas Grant wasn’t even born. But you might say he was at the game; his mother was pregnant with him when she attended that night in 1982. Grant went on to play for the Bulldogs, but he never faced the Eagles in a regular game.
The win for Grant was more important because of what it meant to the present and future of the Bulldogs.
“It shows the hard work our kids put in preparing for this game,” he said. “It’s just been a long time coming, and they did a good job of being in a dogfight because it was more than just the Niceville streak.
“Our backs were to the wall and we had to win if we wanted a chance to be in the playoffs.”
This year’s Crestview seniors wouldn’t be born for another 13 or 14 years after that win in 1982.
To be a part of the team that ended the streak was especially satisfying to Khalil Foster
“It feels great,” he said. “It was the best win I’ve ever had in any sport. It meant a lot to our team to end 31 years of suffering.
“It meant a lot for the whole community and our town and anybody and everybody in Crestview. Now I can tell my kids and my grandkids that I was on the team that ended the streak.”
Matt Gillis said that after hearing stories of the streak all of his life, it was great to be a part of the team that upended Niceville. He said one of the best parts was sharing the moment with his dad.
Crestview head Coach Tim Hatten ranked the victory over Niceville with any he has experienced in his 26-year coaching career, including leading Pearl River Community College to the junior college national championship in 2004.
“I think this win for this program, for this town, these people and these athletes is as big as our national championship in 2004 for our community college,” he said. “It’s certainly special for these players, their moms and dads, the people that played at Crestview and the coaches here at Crestview the last 30 years.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.