NICEVILLE — Crestview did it.
Finally getting that elusive win against Niceville, Crestview ended a 30-year drought and knocked the Eagles from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Quarterback Corey Armstrong had a pair of touchdowns, Crestview's defense forced five turnovers and seven sacks and the Bulldogs defeated the sixth-ranked, undefeated Eagles 17-12 on Friday night at Eagle Stadium, a venue that on Monday will play host to a three-team shootout to decide which two teams from District 1-7A will advance to the postseason.
"We've had such bad luck this year," Crestview Coach Tim Hatten, whose team entered the contest 2-4 in games decided by a possession, said. "Everyone talks how it’s been 30 years since we beat them ... but the players have only been around for so long and I'm new here. I'm just happy for them. They needed this."
The Bulldogs will once again travel to Eagle Stadium along with Tate on Monday. They'll play the Aggies in a one-quarter matchup, and the winner advances to face Niceville for the district crown. If Niceville were to then lose to the winner, the Eagles would play the loser of Tate-Crestview for district runner-up honors.
"It means everything to us," Armstrong said of the second chance. "We get another chance to play and we can't wait to come back here."
The Bulldogs (4-5) hadn't beaten the Eagles (8-1) since 1982, and had lost six straight years in the county rivalry.
There were some close calls recently, most notably the 28-26 loss in 2008, the 28-27 loss in 2010 and the 20-10 defeat two years ago, but last year marked a low for Crestview when it lost 42-7 to the Eagles at home.
But on Friday, Crestview's defense wouldn't allow the Bulldogs to be on the wrong side of a rout.
Tasked with stopping a prolific offense that had yet to be held under 26 points and had topped 37 points five times, the Bulldogs held Niceville quarterbacks Ashton Hooker and Drew Frederic to just 103 yards passing and held an Eagles' rushing attack that entered the night averaging more than four touchdowns and 265 yards per contest to under 100 yards.
"Unbelievable, just unbelievable," Hatten said of his defense.
The seven sacks illustrated the never-ending pressure on the pocket, and aside from a Hooker 1-yard touchdown run on the opening drive the Bulldogs' defense bent but never broke. That was most evident when Niceville, which closed the gap to 17-12 on a 17-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Frederic to Devyn Wooley with 2:43 left to play, got the ball with 1:27 left to play but couldn't mount a game-winning drive.
Niceville's defense also shined at times, but it couldn't overcome five turnovers and hold Armstrong or Crestview running back Emmanuel Reed in check.
Armstrong, who completed 8-of-21 passes for 88 yards and a score, connected with a wide-open Jaylynne Robinson for a 32-yard score on a post route to answer Niceville's initial score and later ran for an 8-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 17-6 lead.
"We played a great game all round," Armstrong said. "We deserved this."
In between the scores was a 41-yard field goal by Tyler Hancock, whose kick gave the Bulldogs a 10-6 lead at halftime. Reed, meanwhile, kept the chains moving with 130 rushing yards against a Niceville defense allowing under 11 points per game on the strength of six times holding an opponent to six or fewer points.
With the loss, Niceville's dominance at Eagle Stadium is put on hold. The Eagles had outscored outscored foes 175-52 at home en route to a 3-0 record, but a Crestview team fighting for its playoff life ended that.