BAKER — Past Gator champions and present Gators hoping to become champions will be on display Friday night at Baker School's Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium.
Members of Baker's 1983 and 1993 state championship teams will be honored as the 2013 Gators host Jay in The War on Highway 4. The game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., also is a key District 1-1A game.
If the Gators (6-0, 1-0) win, they assure themselves a spot in the playoffs.
"The biggest thing about Friday night is if we win, we are in," Baker Coach Matt Brunson said. "We haven't locked down a playoff position in some time (2008). We are trying to beat Jay, win the War on Four, and lock down a playoff spot.
"We are proud of the tradition and storied history of Baker football. We have as many state championships in football as the rest of the schools in Okaloosa County put together. I think the community will come out and they are looking forward to seeing these guys (from the old teams)."
Brunson thinks the Baker community is equally excited about seeing whether the Gators can continue the hot start to the season.
"The community is getting behind this football team," he said. "This team, like we've said all along, has the makings of something special. I think Friday night is going to be another step in that direction."
Jay (3-3, 0-1) runs a spread offense similar to the one Auburn University used in winning the 2010 national championship.
"Kent Smith (Royal coach) does a great job, and his son was an assistant at Auburn under Gus Malzahn when they ran the Cam Newton stuff," Brunson said. "I think they do a good job with their spread and they do some spread read stuff.
"You've got your hands full defending them. We feel like we've got a good plan together and it's going to depend on how our guys go out and execute. They do a good job of getting guys in space so you have to make plays."
Brunson said Royal running back Braden Cross presents a threat with his speed and that quarterback Tate Upton is a good athlete throwing to Ashton Dennington at receiver.
The Royal player Brunson is most impressed with though is on the defensive side of the ball. Middle linebacker A.J. Nash is only a sophomore, but he has Brunson's attention.
"He's about 210 pounds and I haven't seen many linebackers that play like this kid," Brunson said.
Brunson might be impressed with Nash, but don't expect the Gators to vary from their proven formula of running the ball inside.
"They are kind of a 4-4 defensive team," he said. "We kind of run out of an I formation and some varied wing-T looks. They are going to get up there and storm the line of scrimmage and get a lot of guys in the box.
"We are just going to see if somehow we can chip three and four yards out of it. If you keep pounding eventually we knock a hole in there and if D.J. Thomas breaks a tackle we have a chance (for him to score on a long run)."
Brunson didn't try to downplay the importance of Friday's big game.
"This is the biggest game of the season bar none because it's the rivalry game against Jay," he said. "These Jay games are talked about for years to come.
"And again, if we win we are in (the playoffs) and that makes it the biggest game in the last five 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.
WANT TO GO?
What: Jay at Baker
When: 7 p.m. Friday