CRESTVIEW — When the clock hit triple-zero in the third quarter, Crestview’s band began to play.
Bill Conti’s theme from “Rocky,” serenaded the Bulldog players huddled together on the muddy Jack Foster sideline. Their breathing made clouds on the first true fall night of the season. Slowly, one-by-one, each of the players raised four fingers high above his head. The students and band did so, too, from their seats.
Fourth quarter. Crunch time. Or perhaps they did it to signal a fourth straight win against rival Niceville. Either way, it was appropriate.
The Eagles never led Friday night in Crestview. The Bulldogs won, capturing a 28-7 victory and a third straight region quarterfinal win.
“It was a heck of an effort,” Crestview coach Tim Hatten said. “Beating your rival two times in one year and four times in a row, you gotta feel good about that. I knew it would be a lot tougher this time, and I thought they made some pretty good adjustments.”
The adjustments concerned Hatten earlier in the week. Although Crestview fared well against the Eagles (7-4) two weeks before Friday’s playoff bout, he told the Daily News he doesn’t like to play any team twice in the same season because it’s too easy to over calculate adjustments to a gameplan that worked before.
He reiterated the point often to his team during the week. Devin Voisin heard him loud and clear.
“Hatten told us they were gonna come more prepared than last time, and they were gonna finish a few things,” Voisin said. “We just had to go out and execute.”
And execute he did.
Voisin, a senior receiver and defensive back, scored three of Crestview’s (8-2) four touchdowns. He had predicted at lunchtime he would have at least two.
“It just felt easy to me,” Voisin said. “I was wide open. Our plays were working, and they were so worried about my brother this last game, they just left me open.”
Voisin’s brother Jaden hauled in six passes for 108 yard and two scores two weeks ago. With Niceville preoccupied, Devin feasted Friday.
His first score, a 15-yard interception return, gave the Dawgs a 14-0 lead with 42 seconds left in the first quarter and came only 70 seconds and three plays after running back Jay Stanton scored the team’s first touchdown.
His second earned him his first “Fat Boy Bump” of the season.
Devin and quarterback John Gillis hooked up quickly out of the halftime locker room, connecting first on a 38-yard reception down the seam and then a 25-yard fly route down the right sideline on the next play for 21-0 lead.
6-foot-3, 340-pound Bryson Norris was the first to meet Devin in the end zone, leaping into him with the offensive line’s signature celebration. The “Fat Boy Bump” is typically reserved for the eponymous “Fat Boys,” but Norris made an exception.
The question now becomes is Devin Voisin, only 6-0, 175, an honorary “Fat Boy?”
“I think so,” Voisin said. “I think so. I think they’ll claim me.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, struggled to score at all. They had raced out to a 20-7 lead in their regular-season meeting only to watch it slip away underneath Crestview’s offensive onslaught.
This time there was no early Niceville lead. Crestview’s defense saw to that from Niceville’s first drive to its last, forcing quarterback Jack White into three interceptions. The Eagles were held scoreless for 39 minutes until running back T.J. Pope shimmied into the end zone for a 14-yard score in the fourth quarter.
“I think we really won the game in the second half playing defense not offense,” Hatten said. “I thought offensively, we were penalty riddled and we got a little frustrated there and had some penalties late.”
On the game’s opening drive, White and Co. had to punt after six plays covered just 13 yards. Crestview took over at its own 9 following a false start penalty and began a methodical march down the field, the Bulldogs’ massive offensive line imposing its will.
Stanton, whom Niceville coach John Hicks called “a very good downhill runner” earlier in the week, carried the ball nine times for 58 yards on the drive and capped the it with a 1-yard touchdown right up the middle. Three plays later, White telegraphed just his second pass of the game and buried it in Devin Voisin’s chest.
The Eagles mounted their best drive of the game as the second quarter ticked down. White drove the Eagles from their own 31 to Crestview’s 5 in nine plays with carries of 16 and 22 yards only to watch from the sideline as Crestview tackle Luther Fagalima blocked a short field goal with 29 seconds left.
Up next, Crestview will travel to play No. 2 Pine Forest, which beat No. 7 Gulf Breeze 27-14, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Niceville heads into another long offseason after a third straight one-and-done.
“We’re feelin’ real confident,” Voisin said. “I don’t think our offense can be stopped and the defense, we’ve been playing so well so far.”