There's a lot of similarities between Crestview and Kirtland as they head into today's Div. V second round playoff game at Mollenkopf Stadium in Warren.
Both teams are 11-0. Both teams average around 10 yards per carry in the rushing department. Both teams have a speedy star running back that opponents have failed to slow down. Both teams have long regular season winning streaks (35 for Kirtland, 19 for Crestview). Both had one dicey regular season test which they barely survived (Crestview's being the 37-33 opening win against Columbiana; Kirtland beat Beachwood 20-18 in overtime in week No. 8).
The similarities end where discussion of playing style begins. Kirtland is a very deliberate, run-oriented offense. It takes its time and keeps the defense off the field while drives often prove very successful in producing points (the team has 531).
The Rebels witnessed that first hand in Kirtland's 35-7 win in the regional final last year.
"They run the same stuff," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "They're very sound. They have a great system going. They've done a really good job of controlling the clock and pounding the ball. They're going to run, run, run and might try to get you with a big pass play. That's what their style is and we had to deal with that a little bit last week. Hopefully we can deal with it this week."
Crestview is the opposite. The Rebels move fast, don't huddle and aim to wear out opposing defenses. That system has worked to the tune of 614 points so far.
The Rebels might have a little bit of concern after St. Thomas Aquinas exploited the Rebel defense for 50 points last week. The problem is Kirtland is a better team and has state championship pedigree to prove it.
Senior Damon Washington leads that attack with 112 carries for 1,560 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. He's also caught 17 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns.
"The difference between him and the St. Thomas guys is that he's the fast and explosive back like Nick Blower is," Cusick said. "You have to get him going east and west to try to stretch him out and to have good pursuit angles. If we don't do that he's going to pop some plays.
Kirtland replaced 2011 All-Ohio fullback Christian Hauber by committee. That committee is made up of about three backs who have at least 350 yards rushing. The team has 4,211 yards rushing total.
Quarterback Scott Eilerman isn't incredibly accurate throwing (53 of 111 for 898 yards), but he's serviceable and has only thrown two interceptions. On the ground, Eilerman has 50 carries for 483 yards and four touchdowns.
On defense, the Hornets have three shutouts and are holding teams to about 11 points per game. Independence's 28 points in the regular season finale were the most registered against Kirtland all season.
"If you beat a team like that, it's a program win," Cusick said. "It gets you on the map. Right now, they're a notch above us and we have to fight and claw. That's how we have taken our steps in the past."
Cusick said he did not seek out input from West Branch coach D.J. Dota on Kirtland. The Warriors lost to the Hornets 39-7 in the season opener.
"I already know what Kirtland is like," Cusick said. "If it was a team I didn't know, I would call those guys."
Despite its great success running the ball late in last Saturday's game, St. Thomas Aquinas tried to exploit the play action pass early the game. The attempts at establishing a passing attack were unsuccessful and contributed largely to Crestview's 17-0 lead.
"We were not surpised by that," Cusick said. "We saw that on film. We were real impressed by their play action game. We felt like they would try to take advantage of that by the way they run the ball. Our safety tends to get aggressive and we get aggressive on defense. They got some chances because of that, but we got lucky. That's what happens sometimes."