CRESTVIEW — Reality has yet to truly set in for the Crestview Bulldogs.
Almost a full month removed from besting Dillard 50-40 in the 7A state title game, senior Marcus Purcell said he still thinks about that weekend in Lakeland “basically every day.”
Most of the time it doesn’t feel real.
The championship was the first for Crestview and Okaloosa County in 34 years. The Bulldogs won back in 1985, beating Northeast (Oakland Park) 58-55 for the 3A title.
It was also the first title for a team west of Tallahassee since 2003, when Woodham (Pensacola) topped Winter Haven 74-63.
Purcell said he and his teammates will be in class or roaming the halls of Crestview High just as they have done for the past four years of their lives when a friend or two reminds them they aren’t average students anymore. They’re something more.
“There go the state champions,” they’ll say.
Purcell just smiles.
“We’re just happy to hear that all the time,” he said.
The Bulldogs heard it loud and clear Wednesday, the Crestview community honoring the reigning state champs with a celebration at Jack Foster Stadium. A few hundred people filled the stands as the sun set over football field’s north end zone. Coach Greg Watson and his team sat in chairs on the field, each wearing a new commemorative T-shirt, smiles on their faces.
“It was good for our guys to be officially recognized,” Watson said. “We kinda put it off, so we could plan a little bit. It’s not our very last sendoff because we’re gonna have our banquet a little later, but it was kind of a last little celebration for the community to be involved.”
The ceremony was short. Watson spoke, as did Athletic Director Tim Hatten, Principal Dexter Day and Marcus Chambers, the Okaloosa County School District Superintendent of Schools.
“This is an amazing thing for not only Crestview High School, but for Okaloosa County,” Chambers said. “Ten years from now, 20 years from now, literally 50 years from now, you’re not only gonna remember the moment when you all won the state title, but you’re gonna remember this moment as well.”
The afternoon’s largest highlight came in the form of an oversized check. Cash Moore, the owner of Cash’s Cabanas, Inc., donated $5,500 to the basketball team, so it could purchase its state championship rings.
“I just wanna thank him,” Watson said. “It’s just awesome for him to be able to do that, to support us like that, to give back to these kids and the community. That just shows what kind of guy he is.”
Purcell and senior Jaden Voisin, arguably the championship game’s MVP after scoring 21 points, finished out the ceremony with short messages of their own, thanking their parents and the community for support.
After all, this was a team effort.
“I like how the community came out to support us,” Purcell said. “The superintendent came out. The mayor came out, that’s a big thing.
“I know all of everybody was ready for this. I know everybody’s happy for us, and it’s a great feeling for us. The whole of Okaloosa County, I thank them, too.”