Rebels play close to home

The Crestview Rebels are going to treat Saturday’s football playoff contest like a home game.

State-ranked Crestview (11-1) will play Akron Manchester (10-2) in a Division V regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Minerva’s Hines Stadium.

“That wasn’t too bad of a drive to St. Vincent (in Akron), but the last 15 to 20 minutes you get kind of anxious,” Crestview coach Paul Cusick said.

Fellow Inter-Tri County League member and second-ranked Western Reserve (12-0) will take on seventh-ranked Norwalk St. Paul (11-1) in a Division VII regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ken Dukes Stadium at Medina High School.

Minerva hosted South Range’s 35-28 loss to Mogadore in Division VI playoff action last Saturday.

“We were there for a passing scrimmage two years ago, but not on the turf,” Cusick said.

Minerva put in artificial turf over the summer.

Crestview survived three turnovers to hold off Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, 27-26, on Saturday. The 27 points scored were a season low for the Rebels.

“It was a gutty performance for our kids,” Cusick said. “There were chances we could have folded. They were making big plays and we weren’t. But they didn’t hang their heads. I was proud of the way they responded.”

Up next for the Rebels is a strong Akron Manchester team. The Panthers have held opponents to 16 points or less in seven games this season.

“They’re big and physical and run a little bit of spread and a lot of double tight end with a full-house backfield,” Cusick said. “Old Ohio State stuff.”

Crestview’s 11 wins match their most ever as the Rebels advance to the regional final for the second time in school history.

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Cusick said. “The past three to four weeks we’ve done a really good job of preparing and practicing. They’ve matured into good practice players.”

Western Reserve and Norwalk St. Paul have a history. The Flyers beat the Blue Devils, 45-0, in a first-round playoff game in 2009 on the way to the Division VI state title. That was the last time the Blue Devils were shut out.

“They won the state championship that year, so they had a tremendous team,” Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said.

The Blue Devils were watching the Flyers’ 24-0 win over Wellsville closely on Saturday. Western Reserve wrapped up the ITCL lower tier title with a 25-8 win over Wellsville in the last week of the regular season.

“They did things against Wellsville and Wellsville did things,” Hake said. “We’re going to have to play the best game of the year if we are going to win.”

Norwalk St. Paul has a 30-13 playoff record in 15 appearances.

“We know about their tradition and have a tremendous amount of respect for them,” Hake said. “We’re going to do everything we can to beat them.”

He said Norwalk St. Paul is the best team Western Reserve has played this season.

“They are a very well-coached team and are very physical,” Hake said. “We are going to have to play our best game to beat them.”