I love New Year's Day. There's just something fresh and exciting about the clean slate of 365 days that await us.
Yes, this time of the year is filled with more football than the most avid fan can digest, but that's OK.
And the year ahead offers so much more than football.
Since I ranked the area's top sports stories of 2013 in Saturday's edition, it seems only natural that I look ahead on this, the first day of 2014. I have no idea what the new year holds, here are some guesses:
●The Seminoles will win 42-31 in the National Championship football game between Auburn and Florida State.
This is a tough one because it involves my two favorite teams not located in Knoxville, Tenn. That said, I like Auburn's running game, but I think FSU has too many offensive weapons for the Tiger defense to contain.
●Laurel Hill will bring home a title in the District 1-1A championship. Although Laurel Hill boys lost their recent game at Paxton, I see many good things happening in basketball.
●The Bulldog basketball teams will make the playoffs.
I think Crestview's boys have a chance to be mighty good as well. Bulldog guard Ronnie Baylark might just be the best player across Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. With Baylark leading the charge, and strong play all the way around, look for the Bulldogs to make the playoffs.
Crestview's girls basketball team is an interesting mix of youth and a few veterans. The Bulldogs have lost some close games and should improve enough to make some noise in the district tournament.
●In track, Crestview freshman KK McTear will be one of the area's top female sprinters.
I base my prediction, in part, on McTear's quickness on the basketball court. I'm also considering her family history of great sprinters; that legacy includes an uncle, Houston McTear, co-world record holder in the 100-yard dash.
●Laurel Hill's baseball team will struggle this year. I don't think the Hoboes have enough pitching to survive the district schedule.
●Laurel Hill will improve in softball, but the Hoboes will finish out of the running for the playoffs.
A new District 1-7A has Crestview up against Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Navarre and Tate.
The Bulldog baseball team lost many players to graduation, but coach Tim Gillis should have Crestview in the thick of the district race.
Corey McSween takes over Crestview's softball program, becoming the fourth coach in four years. McSween inherits some strong returning talent, but I think the Bulldogs will fall short of a playoff spot.
And finally we reach the fall sports.
●The Baker volleyball team's string of 11 consecutive district championships will come to an end. The Gators, the past few years, have lost too many irreplaceable players to graduation.
●Laurel Hill's volleyball team will win the District 1-1A title again and Crestview's volleyball team will return to the playoffs.
As far as my football predictions go, anything can happen between Jan. 1 and the start of the season.
I expect big things from Crestview's football team in the fall. The Bulldogs got the Niceville monkey off their back last fall by beating the Eagles for the first time in more than three decades. I see Crestview returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 this fall.
Bulldog Emmanuel Reed might be the best returning running back in the county. Crestview has experience at quarterback in Cory Armstrong. And, all of the Bulldogs have been in Tim Hatten's system.
Up the road at Baker, I don't see a let-down from the Gators as they come off their first district title since 2001. Baker and Northview will again be the teams to beat in a competitive District 1-1A.
Junior quarterback Jon Beck will lead a Baker offense that just might feature the pass a little more than it has in the past. Don't expect to see a drop in the Gator running game, as Montae Barto could have a breakout junior year.
So let the games begin, and let's see how my prediction stacks up in 12 months.
!-------HUB NOTE: PLEASE IGNORE BELOW
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.