SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month

'We could be great': Niceville running clocks Crestview

Seth Stringer

NICEVILLE — Grant Thompson didn’t need to wait for the answer.

“Do you want to be good?” the Niceville alumnus and head coach asked as he searched the eyes and of his on-bended-knee players, the end zone huddle yet another postgame coronation of a running-clock win.

“Or do you want to be great?”

Three games in, no one would dare use “good” to describe this Eagles team. In fact, a Niceville High English teacher would send that paper back as incomplete.

Try dominant, the Eagles’ 56-14 win Friday over archrival Crestview (1-2) ending a stretch where they outscored Okaloosa rivals 161-28.

Action from the Niceville-Crestview rivalry football game played at Niceville Friday. Eagles won 56-14.

“Okaloosa County champs, that’s a big deal for us,” said Thompson, whose Eagles ran the county slate last year as well en route to a 12-1, region title campaign. “That’s a big deal for this team, this school, this town.”

Try prolific, Dominic Annichiarico’s three touchdowns and Azareyeh Thomas’ two stiff-arm scores leading a multi-faceted offense that finished the game with 42 unanswered points and racked up 447 yards (242 rushing, 205 rushing), had five different players score and punted only once.

Action from the Niceville-Crestview rivalry football game played at Niceville Friday. Eagles won 56-14.

Try defensive-minded, the Eagles (3-0) forcing three turnovers — including a pick-six from Khalil Jacobs — and shutting down Crestview over the final 35 minutes of play.

Try sound, the special teams putting together another flawless night of angled kickoffs, snaps, tackles and point-after attempts.

Try cohesive, two Power Five guys in Kimo Makaneole and Austin Firestone shining on both lines to set the tone for a roster full of versatile, two-way guys.

 “We don’t want to be good. We want to be great,” Thompson said. “We talked about that all week. Good is the enemy of great, and I believe that if this team wants to, and they stay hungry, and they push, we could be great.”

STAT OF THE NIGHT: 42

That’d be the unanswered points after Crestview’s Corey Siler split the seams for a 15-yard scurry to paydirt to knot the score at 14 with 11:35 to play in the second quarter.

Action from the Niceville-Crestview rivalry football game played at Niceville Friday. Eagles won 56-14.

Niceville had a response — on both sides of the ball.

Annichiarico hauled in a 44-yard touchdown off the left arm of Trey Wainwright, who finished 13-of-17 for 193 yards and two scores, and the special teams recovered on the ensuing kickoff to set up Thomas’ 6-yard touchdown off a reverse.

The defense never allowed another point, while Annichiarico scored his third touchdown off another Wainwright toss, Jacobs had a pick-six and Shawn Parker, rushing for a team-best 112 yards on 14 carries, and Micah Turner tacked on rushing scores.

“We just created some turnovers and Trey and that whole offense were able to grind out some third downs that changed the whole game,” Thompson said. “Everyone just believes in each other on the team so it’s how good can we be? Maybe great.”

OFFENSIVE MVP: Azareyeh Thomas, Niceville

Thomas had yet to score in the first two games, foes keying on the four-star prospect with a mounting list of Power Five offers.

But Friday was his breakout.

Thomas opened the night with a 45-yard touchdown run, taking the initial handoff up the left side before reversing course, following his blockers and issuing a stiff arm up the right sideline all the way to paydirt.

Niceville WR Azareyeh Thomas hauls in a pass for a big gain during the Niceville-Crestview rivalry football game played at Niceville Friday. Niceville won handily, 56-14.

“All I did was see the hole, because I’ve seen on film when you run to the outside, like their whole defense shifts, so I just took it to the crib,” Thomas said.

Later, up 21-14 and after two “heavy” package runs up the middle were stuffed and Niceville was pushed off the goal line with a penalty, Thomas took a reverse from Annichiarico, cut inside a tackler and then busted to the outside with a stiff arm to end all stiff arms as he strolled into the end zone. Afterward, a simple shrug to the sideline.

Action from the Niceville-Crestview rivalry football game played at Niceville Friday. Eagles won 56-14.

“I just saw it and hit it like the last play,” Thomas said. “The shrug was just I’m here. I’m just doing my thing out here.”

Thompson said it was just a matter of time before Thomas broke out.

“He’s really good. He doesn’t have all those offers for nothing,” Niceville’s head coach said. “The fact you didn’t see those scores in the previous two games was because you actively saw teams trying to take him away. After seeing two games where everybody can make plays, they have to play us balanced.

“So tonight was his night.”

DEFENSIVE MVP: Khalil Jacobs, Niceville

Jacobs is a Mississippi native that came to Niceville in the offseason from North Carolina. When he moved to the area, there was only one school on his radar.

“I looked Niceville up and knew they just almost won a championship, so this was my team,” said the 6-foot-2 playmaker.

And the Eagles have embraced Jacobs, who in the third quarter with Niceville leading 35-14 picked off McCoy around the 25-yard line and walked into the end zone untouched.

 “Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” Jacobs said. “I read the quarterback. I seen him turn and I just picked it off and scored.”

Added Thompson: “What a play, right? The sky’s the limit for him. You’ve just seen him scratch the surface.”

QUOTABLE

Thomas on the future: “We still got more work to do.”

UP NEXT

Niceville hosts Mosley (2-1), coming off a 24-21 overtime loss to Wakulla at home, for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.

Crestview returns home for the first time this season to host Booker T. Washington (1-1), coming off a 28-20 home loss to Escambia, for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.