FORT WALTON BEACH – It was the Micah Reed Show Friday night at Joe Etheredge Stadium.
Splitting the tackles for a pair 70-plus-yard runs and routinely running over linebackers and making tacklers miss left and right, the Crestview running back rushed 31 times for 260 yards and four scores to lead the Bulldogs (3-4) to a 28-24 District 2-6A win over Choctaw (2-5).
“What a warrior,” Crestview coach Kevin Pettis said. “I’m so proud of Micah, who’s just been a workhorse for us all year.”
Reed said the praise, though, should be directed to an offensive line that opens up the holes for his highlight-reel runs.
“The offensive line played great,” said the senior, who had touchdown runs of 76, 74, 1 and 7 yards, the latter with 8:27 in the fourth that proved to be the game winner. “They opened up holes that were amazing and I just did my best to run through them.”
While the running back’s totals were headline worthy, Pettis, in address-ing his team in the post-game huddle, said, “The most important stat of all is 1-1.”
The 1-1 mark he was al-luding to was the Bulldogs’ district record, which sounds a lot better than their 3-4 overall mark.
That sub-.500 record, which included a four-game losing streak enter-ing Friday night, was largely the product of the Bulldogs’ fourth-quarter woes, which were illus-trated in the 41-14 deficit they had in that 12-minute frame en route to their 2-4 mark. But the Bulldogs brushed those memories aside Friday night, out-scoring the Indians 7-0 in the decisive quarter.
“We talked all week to the kids about finishing games,” Pettis said. “I thought for the year we’ve played well enough in the first three quarters to win ballgames, but we’ve had those meltdowns. Tonight, we shrugged those off and came back renewed and earned the win.”
The loss came on the heels of a 21-17 setback to Fort Walton Beach, which is tied with Navarre at 2-0 atop the district standings.
Meanwhile, the Indians fell to 1-2 in league play. It was the fifth heartbreaking loss this season for the Indians, who have been outscored by just 19 points in those five setbacks and never by more than seven in any one. That includes last week’s 21-17 loss at Navarre, a team they led 17-6 late, and once again Friday night the Indians just couldn’t close out the win.
The Indians received 117 rushing yards and a score from a John Hicks to go along with a rushing score by Sabastian Shacon and Chase Whitehead, and they also had their mo-ments defensively with three sacks and four forced fumbles. Two of those they recovered, as they looked in control through the first three quarters.
But it was the Bulldogs who struck first, and not surprisingly it was on the legs of Reed.
The senior ate up 51 yards of the game-opening 78-yard drive on nine carries, the last a 1-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The momentum, though, couldn’t be sus-tained because of ball-security issues.
Late in the first quarter after Choctaw was forced to punt for the second time in as many drives, a Da-kota Davis fumble was recovered by Zachery Theriault at the Bulldogs’ 15. Four plays later, Chase Whitehead punched it in on a 4-yard run to knot the score at 7.
But Crestview’s turn-over woes weren’t over just yet.
After a pair of defensive stops by both teams, Crestview’s Tate Sweatt coughed up the ball on a punt return and Darryl Johnson pounced to set up Choctaw camp inside the red zone. Two plays later, Chacon capped off the 16-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run 8:10 to play in the half to give Choctaw a 14-7 advantage.
“We just gift wrapped them 14 points there,” Pettis said.
In response, Crestview would turn back to the legs of Reed. Giving him 140 yards in the first half, Reed busted a 74-yard touch-down run up the gut to knot the score at 14 with 1:31 to play in the half.
With the Bulldogs set to receive the ball first in the second half, Choctaw didn’t take its foot off the gas. The Indians marched 35 yards to the Bulldogs’ 32-yard line, setting the stage for Dominique Jor-dan. Giving his team the momentum, the soccer player split the uprights to stake the Indians to a 17-14 lead headed into the locker rooms.
“I told the kids we just have to quite beating our-selves and our time would com,” Pettis said. “I said, ‘If we take care of the football, we will win this ballgame.’ ”
His words proved pro-phetic as the Bulldogs didn’t commit a single second-half turnover.
Meanwhile, Reed started the half with a 76-yard touchdown run and, following a Hicks 46-yard touchdown carry, provided the game winner with a 7-yard score in the fourth. The Bulldogs’ defense, which limited Garrison Floyd to just 9 for 18 pass-ing for 37 yards and held the Indians to under 200 yards of offense, then held up its end of the bargain, closing out a win that Pettis called a “momentum builder.”