It’s never too early for a little payback.
Though the high school football season is only two weeks old, quite an opportunity is at hand for Niceville High. On Friday night, the Ea-gles, 51-17 winners over East Gadsden a week ago, will have the chance to meet Pace, the team that eliminated Niceville from the Class 6A playoffs in a 42-41 thriller last season.
For Niceville head coach John Hicks, though, last year’s game is nothing but a memory.
“That was last year,” said Hicks of Pace’s win. “We are a different football team and they are too. We are just trying to come out and be a better team than we were last week.”
That will be a tall task for the Eagles, 34-point winners over East Gadsden, the No. 5 team in Class 4A.
Pace. 45-6 winners over Arnold in Week 1, went on to reach the Class 6A semifinals after eliminating Niceville in the opening round. This season, the Patriots have designs on achieving similar success, and this early-season test at Niceville will tell a great deal about both teams. Last season, Niceville won the regular season matchup, a 14-13 slugfest at Pace.
This season, both offenses look capable of cruising past that 14-13 score. In its opening win over East Gadsden, Niceville rushed for 446 yards, which included 171 yards and three touchdowns from sophomore sensation Shi Kim Coward. Pace had similar success against Ar-nold, racing out to a 45-0 early in the third quarter before playing backups.
“Offensively, they can challenge you in a lot of ways,” said Hicks. “They can run the football, they can throw it. They just do everything really well and they are fundamentally sound..”
If both offenses continue their early output, then Friday night’s contest could turn into a shootout similar to last season’s playoff show-down, a 3-overtime thriller in which the two teams combined for 83 points. Pace eventually won after converting a 2-point conversion in the third overtime.
“That’s behind us,” said Hicks. “We are working toward this year, and that means coming out Friday night and improving our football team. Hopefully we can continue to get better, because Pace is a good football team every year.”