WARREN - Crestview's football team knew the state's second-ranked team in Division V was going to be a handful and it knew it had to do specific things if it was going to shoot for the upset.
To put it bluntly, the Rebels didn't do enough and Kirtland used superior offensive and defensive tactics to end the Inter-Tri County League upper tier champion's season 35-7 on Friday at Mollenkopf Stadium.
The Hornets (13-0) operate in a throw-back mentality where possession is key and running the ball and the clock is just as good as a dominating performance on the defensive side of the ball.
"The best thing we did was to control the clock and to keep them from getting touches," Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde said. "Controlling the clock and keeping the time of possession in our favor keeps high-potent offenses like Crestview off the field."
The Hornets ran the ball 58 times for 334 yards. They had 21 first downs. Crestview (11-2) managed just 24 running plays for 73 yards (most of that came when Kirtland's starters were off the field late in the fourth quarter). The passing attack didn't help much either as Rebel quarterback Adam Coppock completed six of 20 passes for 70 yards.
The thing that really messes with the Rebels' heads was turnovers. They knew they had to protect the football, but that went out of the window on the second play of the game. The Rebels would turn the ball over three more times.
"The turnovers were brutal," Crestview senior Tom Oliver said. "That's what they've been doing to all the teams. They're a good team. If they keep causing turnovers, they're going to keep winning."
"I thought that if we could get a little bit of flow going offensively that maybe we could get something going," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "We just didn't. There were the turnovers. Then there were the penalties here or there. Against teams like that, you just can't do it because it just snowballs."
Kirtland speedster Damon Washington got the Hornets on the board first with a thrilling run on third down where he appeared to be stopped in a pile and then went for 29 yards to make it 6-0 with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
The slow, steady beat of the offense marched on as the Hornets made it 14-0 on a Christian Hauber 6-yard run with 10:57 left in the second quarter.
"We were worked up and we couldn't settle down," Cusick said. "Everyone was trying to make a huge play instead of letting the game happen. They executed better and that's just the way it is sometimes."
Crestview's best chance to score in the first half came when the Rebels had a fourth and 1 from the Hornet 11. Hauber stopped an Oliver run there to end the threat.
"That was a huge play in the game," LaVerde said. "Hauber made a great stop. He's been making plays like that for three years."
Crestview never really recovered from there. Hauber would total 198 yards rushing on 25 carries. He added three second half touchdowns.
"They're a special team," Crestview senior C.J. Collins said. "Maybe if some things go our way it's a different ball game, but that team is well-caoched and they executed very well. That's all you can say. They had heart too and we'll be rooting for them the rest of the way."
Crestview's touchdown, a 1-yard scamper by Coppock, came with less than a minute to play against Kirtland's second string.
"I'm proud of the seniors and the way they had a great season," Cusick said. "I'm hoping our underclassmen learn from that and build upon the group that came before them."
Washington, who had 19 carries for 97 yards, exited the game with 8:42 to go in the third quarter after suffering a slight "ding" on a play in which he fumbled the ball. He did not return, but the injury is not serious.
Nick Blower struggled to get anything going on the ground and ended up with eight carries for 23 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury with 8:09 left in the game.
- Crestview sold 881 presale tickets. That was about double what Kirtland sold. Last week, Crestview sold 652 presale tickets for the game against St. Thomas Aquinas.
-Coppock went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season deep in the fourth quarter on Crestview's scoring drive against the Kirtland second string. He needed 30 to surpass the mark and ended the season with 1,016.
-One of Kirtland's school buses got buried in the mud up to axle behind the visitor's stands.
-Kirtland's state semifinal opponent will be decided this weekend.