When Crestview hired Tim Hatten four years ago to helm its football program, the foundation was laid.

When the Bulldogs welcomed back Greg Watson in 2016 and brought in Steve Williams, two more basketball building blocks went down.

These were integral moves because the Crestview athletic department has in recent years taken a backseat to the other big schools in the area in terms of top-to-bottom depth, the Sunshine Cup standings and now our Power Program Index rankings.

That remains true this year when you examine the breadth of success. But this past season Crestview took a major step in the right direction, especially in the more marquee sports.

When Crestview football routed Niceville at home, ran the district slate for a title and advanced to the 7A region semifinals during a 10-2 campaign, it was an important step.

When the boys basketball team avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Choctaw for the district crown, it was an important step.

When the volleyball team upset Fort Walton Beach to secure a regional playoff spot, another step.

Even when the girls basketball program upset a sweet 16 Niceville team, it was a step.

Baby steps, sure. But nonetheless all were important for a program that's looking for continued stability.

They've found that in baseball under Tim Gillis and in wrestling under Andrew Black. Now the next step is building on the large programs while also finding stability in sports like soccer, the running programs, tennis and softball.

To put into context the progression of the program in large, just look to last year's futility.

No Crestview team made the regional playoffs – the girls basketball, volleyball, flag football and both soccer programs each finishing below .500. And the football team finished a mediocre 5-5 and was forced to sit out the playoffs for the fifth straight year after a 38-3 loss at Niceville.

Reinforcing that point was the release of FHSAA’s Sunshine Cup Standings, where the Bulldogs finished 57th among 6A programs after the boys actually accumulated -1.5 points. And in our Power Program Index the Bulldogs ranked a dead-last 12th.

Now they're ninth in our rankings and — again baby steps — accumulated 12 points in the Sunshine Cup standings.

A beacon of hope for the less unheralded sports were a few notable results.

A boys golf team featuring Dustin Holloway, Noah Anderson and Jake Dale finished runner-up to Fort Walton Beach at districts. Holloway then shot a 72 at regionals to individually qualify for state.

The Crestview girls cross country team, led by Jaclyn Bramlette and Ragan Gates, qualified for regionals with a third-place district finish.

Diego Calonje won a wrestling district title at 145 pounds and qualified for state with a third-place regional finish.

Meanwhile weightlifter Leah Carter won a district title at 154 pounds and medaled in fourth at state, where teammate Chelsey Owens also medaled in sixth at 101 pounds after finishing runner-up at district and regionals.

If the small successes can experience further growth, soon Crestview may be in the upper echelon of area program next to its Okaloosa County rivals.