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Crestview tangles with Escambia in Kickoff Classic

| Randy Dickson
The scoreboard at Jack Foster Stadium remained unlit Thursday night as Crestview hosted Escambia in the 2022 Kickoff Classic. In what can’t be described as a game and maybe not even a controlled scrimmage, the Bulldogs and Gators battled for 90 minutes without scores being tallied on the scoreboard or the ball going over on downs. But there was no mistaking the teams were playing football even if the scoreboard never came into play.
Crestview’s Jason Jones powers through a hole against Escambia during Thursday night’s Kickoff Classic.

“I thought we played with great effort tonight,” CHS head coach Thomas Grant said. “Obviously there are some things we have to clean up on both sides of the ball, but our players did what I told them before it started, ‘I want you to play with great effort and have a lot of fun and fly around,’ and we did that.”

The format of the night was for the teams to trade possessions. Each team started at its own 30-yard line ran 10 plays. The ball was advanced downfield, first downs were recorded and officials from the Miracle Strip Officials Association were on hand to call penalties.

A play that had a penalty was repeated. If a team scored a touchdown or turned the ball over before the allotted 10 plays the ball remained in that team’s possession until the end of the 10 plays.

And while the format might have been statistician’s nightmare, it gave Grant the opportunity to see the Bulldogs in various situations on both sides of the ball.

His conclusion was the Bulldogs passed the test.

“We have to be a mature team now,” he said. “We are a little banged up so we have to be able to get mental reps so we can be fresh moving forward.”

Throughout the scrimmage Bulldog quarterbacks Jerome Brazan and Nathanial Nocher delivered the football on time and on target.

“ I’m very pleased with our them,” Grant said. “I feel like for the most part, the quarterbacks did a great job. The receivers did a great job of winning one on one battles.

“Escambia plays that ‘Cat defense’ where they are saying, ‘I’ve got that cat.’ We did a good job of making our reads and throwing the ball in a timely manner.”

Crestview was able to run the ball well and as expected Jason Jones looked very good.

Grant noted that all the Bulldog running backs did a good job.

Unofficially, Jones, Jay Tassin, Lazarius Parks and Rakis Studevan scored rushing touchdowns.

Brazan connected with Parks on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Nocher delivered a short scoring strike to Issac Thomas.

“All them that ran the ball tonight, ran it very well,” Grant said. “They all did a great job.

“And they can’t do their job without the offensive linemen doing their job. We played 10 guys up front tonight as far as moving people around and that’s a testament to some of those young guys getting in there and getting a hat on a hat, which is all we preach.”

Grant said that Ryan Duncan and Jaden Appleby were the leaders on the defense. Duncan picked off two Gator passes. Appleby was the proverbial Swiss Army Knife for the Bulldogs lining up at safety, outside and inside linebacker and edge rusher.

With the preliminaries of Meet the Bulldogs and the Kickoff Classic out of the way, Grant and the Bulldogs can now get down to the serious matters they have been preparing for since last season ended. Friday night the game counts when Crestview travels to Orlando to play Ridley, Penn.

“You look at your mistakes and you get better,” Grant said. “We’ve got five weeks before our first district game (at home against Niceville on Sept. 30) and that’s when we need to be clicking on all cylinders.

“I’m hoping we get some of our offensive linemen back (that are injured). Like I said, we got banged up, but look, the guys that came in did a great job. We just continue to work on our mistakes and strive for perfection.”