HANOVERTON-As the regular season dwindles away, the Crestview playoff push is beginning to gain steam.
Behind 250 rushing yards from quarterback Collin Gilbert, the Rebels notched their fourth straight victory and kept themselves in position for a home playoff game, outscoring host United, 54-33, Friday.
"We're getting better every week," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "We're not yet where we want to be but we've been improving how we practice during the week and I think it showed tonight."
Crestview moves to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier, staying in a tie for second with Springfield, one game behind South Range. United falls to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the ITCL.
"The league title is something that means a lot to us and something we'd like to have very much," Cusick said. "But our focus right now is just continuing to get a little better each day so hopefully we will peak in week 11."
Gilbert broke a 14-14 tie early in the second quarter with a lightning-quick 29 yard touchdown run. The senior-with plenty of help from running back Trevor Cope and the offensive line-kept the Rebels a comfortable distance ahead for the rest of the night, finishing with four rushing touchdowns to go along with 129 yards through the air and two passing scores.
Cope chipped in 101 rushing yards and a touchdown, while tight end Josh McDade had four receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
"The guys up front were what won us this game," Gilbert said. "They've done a great job all season, but especially tonight. They got downfield on blocks all night and that opened up some huge lanes for us to run through."
"Collin has a great command of this offense, he's studied the playbook hard for four years and we have total trust in him." Cusick said. "
Facing a 31-14 halftime deficit, the United offense kept grinding away in the second half, finishing with 348 yards on the ground, but any time the Eagles would score, Crestview answeed right back. United never got closer than 17 points. Quarterback Garrett Beech finished with 192 yards rushing and three touchdowns while running back Mike Martin totaled 155 yards and a touchdown.
"We have trouble stopping people defensively," United coach Mike Ward said. "Gilbert is a terrific player with some nice complementary pieces. He made a lot of our guys miss tonight, we knew it was going to be a tremendous challenge."Our offense was able to move the ball, and I thought we actually left a couple of scores out there."
"They are a great backfield and we knew they were going to get their yards," Cusick said. "Our guys on defense did a nice job of hanging in there and coming up with some plays."
While the Eagles got their share of yards on the ground, the Crestview defense was able to frustrate the United passing game. Beech finished 6-for-20 for 87 yards and an interception.
"Beech does a good job scrambling and keeping his eyes down the field trying to make the big play," Cusick said. "Our guys did a great job of containing him and forcing him into some tough throws."
The game swung in Crestview's favor late in the second quarter. With the Rebels ahead 21-14, United took over at their own 20 and began ripping off chunks of yardage like they did in the first quarter. However, the drive stalled at midfield. Faced with a fourth-and-11, Ward chose to go for it, but Beech's long pass fell incomplete. Two plays later, Gilbert made it a two-touchdown game with a 37-yard scamper. On their next possession the Eagles went three-and-out deep in their own territory. With a short field, the Rebels were able to cash in a career-long 40-yard field goal by Caleb McGath a minute before the half.
"Hindsight is always 20/20," Ward said. "Looking back on it now I would like to have that fourth-down call back but we thought we had something on that play and we decided to take a gamble, that's football."
United is at East Palestine next week, while Crestview travels to archrival Columbiana.
UNITED: 7- 7- 7-7-33
C-Collin Gilbert 1 run (Caleb McGath kick)
U-Garrett Beech 1 run (Beech kick)
C-Josh McDade 14 pass from Gilbert (McGath kick)
U-Zack Maze1 run (Beech kick)
C-Collin Gilbert 29 run (McGath kick)
C-Collin Gilbert 37 run (McGath kick)
C-Caleb McGath 40 FG
C-Collin Gilbert 57 run McGath kick)
U-Garrett Beech 22 run (Beech kick)
C-Josh McDade 42 pass from Gilbert (McGath kick)
U-Mike Martin 17 run (run failed)
C-Trevor Cope 7 run (kick failed)
U-Garrett Beech 11 run (run failed)
C-Caleb McGath 30 FG
First downs 2023
Total Yards 491486
RUSHING-Crestview, Collin Gilbert 19-250, Trevor Cope 13-101; United, Garrett Beech 25-192, Mike Martin 24-155.
PASSING-Crestview, Collin Gilbert 5-11-129-1; United, 6-20-87-1
RECEIVING-Crestview, Josh McDade 4-88, Evan Beachler 1-41; United, Austin Thomas 4-67, Tyler Lewis 2-20.
INTERCEPTIONS- Crestview, Zach Hicks; United, Garrett Beech.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-United, Bryan Weyant.