A few weeks into the 2015 season, it was clear the Pine Forest Eagles were the most improved squad in the area since last season.
The Eagles have tripled their win total from last season and have posted wins over Escambia (defending District 1-6A champ), Pensacola High and Milton.
But Friday, the Eagles will get a chance to gauge how far their team has come, as Pine Forest plays host to Niceville — one of the premier football programs in Florida.
“As of last week, we are in the playoffs,” Pine Forest coach Jerry Pollard said. “We don’t know if we are No. 1 or No. 2 yet … we’ve still got to play Tate. But, if we play well against Niceville, a playoff caliber team, then that will show us where we stand.
“I think Niceville, right now, is the best team we’ve played this season. After Friday night, it all could change because Tate is a very good team also.”
Eagles get second district win, best Wildcats
The Pine Forest Eagles will aim to have their offense running at full speed Friday night, as Niceville averages more than 36 points-per-game.
Ladarius Wiggins, along with Jaden Gardner and Xavier Saulsberry, will seek to provide huge production from Pine Forest’s backfield.
“We’re a pretty good passing team, but we’re good at both running and passing really,” said Wiggins, who has rushed for 485 yards and six touchdowns this season. “I’ve heard Niceville is a pretty good team this year. I know they are gonna come at us, but our offense is gonna work and try to score every time we touch the ball.”
Wiggins is also excited to play the big game in front of his home crowd.
“Our fans are gonna be turnt up,” he said. “They will do their thing.”
Defensively, the Eagles will be challenged with containing Niceville’s explosive offense, led by Auburn University commit Eli Stove.
“We’ve gotta key in on No. 11 (Stove). We can’t let him go crazy,” said Devonte Wiggins, who has recorded 62 tackles and one interception this year. “Niceville has a lot of great players, and they ain’t gonna make too many mistakes … so we can’t either. It should be a playoff atmosphere.”
And while Pine Forest is excited about the chance to make a huge statement, the players know the game will present a large challenge.
“I know it’s not gonna be easy … they are gonna come at us,” said Angelo Garay, who has recorded 44 tackles and two sacks this year. “But, I think we will be ready by Friday.
“Last season, we used to quit a lot. This year, I think we have got more fight in us. It’s been a good week of practice. Hopefully it carries over into the game.”
Want to go?
Who: Niceville Eagles vs. Pine Forest Eagles
Records: Niceville (6-1, 2-0); Pine Forest (6-1, 2-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Pine Forest High