Tate holds respect for Niceville High’s football program — no ifs, ands or buts about it.
However, that doesn’t mean the Aggies are fond of the Eagles.
For Tate’s seniors, Friday’s home game offers a chance to conquer what has been a daunting task — beating Niceville.
Last year, the Aggies fell twice to Niceville — once in the playoffs — by a combined score of 69-7.
In 2013, the Aggies suffered a 28-6 loss at home to Niceville.
Tate senior linebacker Dallas Ditto, who leads the Aggies with 13 tackles per game, said leading up to Friday has felt like the longest week of his life.
“It kind of hurts my stomach when I think about Niceville,” Ditto said. “I don’t think I hate any other team more than I hate them. We always go in there with so much confidence, thinking that this will be the year we beat them. Then they rack up all these points on us and we have trouble scoring … it’s tough.
“I feel like we are so focused and so hungry to win this year. It feels so good, almost dangerous.”
The Aggies will rely heavily on Ditto and their defense, a unit that has allowed an average of 8.6 points per game this year.
Tate will charge in with a perfect record and will hope Niceville is still licking its wounds from a week two loss at Escambia.
But one thing’s for certain, Tate will carry a level of confidence that may seem different than what the Eagles are used to.
“(Niceville) is what a high school football program should be … they are good every single year,” said Tate safety Trace Penton, who missed Tate’s first game but has made his impact in the Aggies’ two most recent wins. “Usually, we feel like the underdogs going into the Niceville game. That’s the difference this year. I don’t think there is one person on our team who feels that we are the underdogs.”
And after playing at Niceville twice last year, the Aggies will cherish the chance to get a win at home Friday in front of their crowd.
“They’ve got to come to us now,” Ditto said. “So many people always come out (to our home games), it’s always awesome seeing everyone in the stands.”
“It’s definitely a plus playing at home,” he said. “It’s been a while since we’ve lost here at Tate. I like being able to stay in our locker room and not having to make an hour drive there.”
Want to Go?
Who: Niceville Eagles at Tate Aggies
When: Friday 7:30 p.m.
Where: Pete Gindl Stadium