COLUMBIANA-With an unproven backfield and an array of inexperienced offensive weapons, Crestview relied on their sole returnee - quarterback Collin Gilbert.
Gilbert scored all five Rebels (1-0) touchdowns, three on the ground and two through the air, to lead Crestview to a 36-7 victory over Beaver Local (0-1) on Thursday at Crestview Stadium.
Gilbert accumulated 261 total yards of offense, rushing for 175 yards on just eight attempts and completing eight out of 12 passes for 86 yards.
Crestview's Trevor Cope (2) is grabbed by Beaver's Chase Hillard (24) and and Bryce McKenzie. (Photo by Patti Schaeffer)
Despite being the only returning starter in the backfield, Gilbert led an offense that reminded Rebels fans of the 2012 team, one that averaged 56.3 points a game en route to an 11-1 season.
"Our whole line is back," Gilbert said. "We wouldn't have been able to do that last year without the line. Trevor (Cope), Jesse (Best), all the younger guys are stepping up and doing great."
Despite the big offensive performance, Crestview began the game with a safety on special teams. When Beaver Local punter Chase Hilliard muffed a snap, a horde of Rebels leapt on the loose ball as it trickled into the endzone.
BEAVER: 0-0-0-7 - 7
CRESTVIEW: 22-14-0-0 - 36
First downs 1016
Total Yards 226431
RUSHING-Beaver, Kole McKenzie 7-16, Robert Johnston 16-40, Trevore McLaughlin 5-6, Morley Marsden 3-12, Chris Sigley 1-3, Dustin Martsolf 3-16; Crestview, Collin Gilbert 8-175, Trevor Cope 12-72, Jesse Best 6-58.
PASSING-Beaver, Trevore McLaughlin 9-17-138-0, Chris Sigley 0-2-0-0; Crestview, Collin Gilbert 8-12-86-0, Jesse Best 4-4-32-0.
RECEIVING-Beaver, Robert Johnston 5-73, Bryce McKenzie 3-48, Tyler Stratton 1-17; Crestview, Josh McDade 3-68, Evan Beacher 3-26
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Beaver 3 (Stefan Lucas, Tyler Stratton, Caleb Koontz), Crestview 1 (Josh DeSalvo)
After that, Gilbert took over.
"First of all, he's a leader," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said of Gilbert. "Some of his big plays were off of his audibles where we checked out the defense. He understands what we need to do and where we need to get the ball."
On the first play after the free kick from the safety, Gilbert broke off a 35-yard run to give Crestview a 9-0 lead with 9:40 remaining in the first quarter. Gilbert ran for two more touchdowns in the first quarter - a one-yard dive and a 77-yard dash.
"He's extremely explosive," Beaver Local coach Jeremy McElroy said. "I've watched him grow up over the years and he's as good as advertised."
Crestview was hardly a one-man offense however. Trevor Cope rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries, as well as caught two passes for 13 yards. Evan Beacher caught three passes for 26 yards, and Jesse Best rushed for 58 yards on six carries and completed four passes for 32 yards.
The Beavers struggled with Crestview's offense through the entire first half. The Rebels scored all of their 36 points in the first half, accumulating 284 yards of offense before the break. Once Crestview started playing their reserves, the Beavers were able to catch their breath. Still, the defense remains a concern for McElroy, especially when they face Oak Glen in their home opener on Friday.
"Hats off to Crestview because they came out clicking right from the go," McElroy said. "We started off and made some critical mistakes that put us in a hole. They kept playing until the end of the game, but that's just not the way you want to start."
The Beavers have had their case of defensive woes in recent times. Beaver Local gave up an average of 36.2 points in their eight losses last season.
In the second quarter, Crestview took advantage of a Beaver Local secondary that had no returning starters. Just six seconds into the second frame, Gilbert launched a 22-yard touchdown to Josh McDade. Seven minutes later, Gilbert connected with McDade again for a 47-yard score. By halftime, the Rebels led 36-0. McDade finished with 68 yards on three catches with the two scores.
"We scrimmaged East Liverpool on Thursday and we didn't play real well," Gilbert said. "The coaches let us know that and we stepped it up tonight.
"We came out and realized that this is a new year and a new team. We have to play each play like this is our year."
Offensively, the Beavers totaled 207 yards compared to Crestview's 431. Trevor McLaughlin completed nine out of 18 passes for 130 yards. Rob Johnston led Beavers rushers with 28 yards on 16 carries while also catching five passes for 64 yards. The lone touchdown for Beaver Local was scored on a ten-yard run by Dustin Martsoff.
The Rebels hardly played a perfect game, however. Crestview lost three fumbles and committed ten penalties for 60 yards. The Rebels head to West Branch next week in a matchup of league champions -Crestview were Inter Tri-County League champs last season while West Branch took the Northeastern Buckeye Conference title.
"We want perfection," Gilbert said. "We were a little sloppy in the second half. We scored 36 but we could have scored a lot more than that. We have to be perfect because they (West Branch) are a great team."
Crestview inducted three members to their Hall of Fame; Dr. Donald Long, a Fairfield Waterford graduate from the class of 1961, Ronald Knight, a Crestview graduate from the class of 1964, and Doris Hull Ogle, a 1953 graduate of New Waterford.