For the second time in the last four seasons, the Pensacola area's high school football season ended with a local team hoisting a state championship trophy.
Following in the footsteps of the Pensacola High Tigers in 2009, the Northview Chiefs embarked on a state championship trek this season.
Northview coach Sid Wheatley's troops rolled into the Class 1A state finals in Orlando and left the Citrus Bowl with the hardware after a 42-21 win over the previously top-ranked Trenton Tigers.
The win capped off one of the most impressive three-year runs in area history, as the Chiefs won consecutive region championships during that stretch.
"It's still kind of sinking in," Wheatley said. "There's still a lot of excitement around school right now. The kids are like celebrities these days in the hallways, and they're eating every minute of it up."
For his efforts in leading the Chiefs to the school's first-ever state championship run, Wheatley has been named the Pensacola News Journal's 2012 Coach of the Year.
"It all started three years ago when we made that run and got to the region championship," said Wheatley, who is in his fourth year as the Northview head football coach. "Last year, obviously, we came up short and a lot of these kids were involved in both of them, so it's extra special to see them finally get to that point.
"And then when you're on the largest stage, to perform that well, it's not just enough to get there, you want to win it, and they did that."
Along the way, the Chiefs earned respect in the area, and the state. Northview's three losses came to teams outside of their classification -- Class 4A Marianna, Class 5A Gulf Breeze and Class 5A West Florida.
Gulf Breeze and West Florida both made the 5A playoffs, while Marianna went 8-2 and finished third in the competitive District 1-4A.
"I thought it was really classy that (Gulf Breeze) coach (Chris) Nemith had some really good things to say about us," Wheatley said, "and (West Florida) coach (Harry) Lees said something to the effect of us having a great chance to win the thing."
Still, Wheatley and the Chiefs had to knock off the then-No. 1 and unbeaten Trenton Tigers in the state title game to ultimately earn respect on the state level.
"A lot of people read message boards and you can't get caught up in it, but it just looked like most of the talk in the state came from (the Trenton) side of it and they didn't pay attention to the northern teams," Wheatley said. "I think our kids saw it, and I think it gave them some ammunition.
"They wanted the respect and wanted to show that area of the state what kind of football we play up here, and they obviously did that."
Now the focus switches to next season, and the Chiefs' hopes of repeating as state champions. Wheatley said he doesn't think there will be pressure to go back-to-back, but says the Chiefs won't settle for anything but the highest expectations.
"It's like I've told people before, when you have high expectations, it's a lot better to have that than to have no expectations," Wheatley said. "If you want to look at it as pressure, I'm sure there will be people who view us now in a different light and expect us to play well every year. And that's what we're working for, every year.
"Every year that we play -- some years will be more feasible than others -- but that's our goal to win a district championship and get as deep as we can in the playoffs and have an opportunity to play for a state championship. And that's obviously not going to change."
While it was a banner year for the Chiefs -- one which ended with the ultimate prize -- the rest of the area also had spectacular seasons.
The Navarre Raiders advanced to the Class 6A state semifinals, losing to top-ranked Gainesville High. A big reason for that run was tailback Jay Warren, who is the News Journal's Most Valuable Player.
Warren ran for an area-best 1,832 yards and 19 touchdowns in leading the Raiders to the District 2-6A title and best finish in school history at 12-2.
The Milton Panthers also had a big season, capturing the District 1-6A title and advancing to the Region 1-6A quarterfinals, where they lost to county rival Navarre.
DeMichael McQueen was a key component of that Milton defense, finishing as the area's leading tackler with 139 stops to be named the Defensive Player of the Year.
And a season after the West Florida Jaguars made history with a 9-1 record and a playoff appearance, junior quarterback Joey Baker went a step further by leading the Jags to a perfect 10-0 season and a top-five ranking in the state.
Baker -- the News Journal's Offensive Player of the Year -- threw for a school record 3,106 yards and 27 touchdowns while adding 786 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground for the Jags, who lost to Class 5A state champion Godby in the state playoffs.