COLUMBIANA-Over the last four years, its been almost routine for Crestview senior quarterback Collin Gilbert to be relaxing on the bench during the second half, soaking in another blowout win. Friday night against a stubborn Springfield team, the Rebels found themselves locked in a rare back-and-forth battle and whenever they needed a big play, the veteran player seemed to step forward.
Playing the entire game both ways for the first time all season, Gilbert rushed for 249 yards and a touchdown, threw for 101 more and another score and snagged a key third quarter interception as the Rebels held off the Tigers 37-27 at Crestview High School.
"Springfield is a good team, and we knew it was going to take a full game effort by everybody this week." Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "We prepared well all week and everyone did a great job stepping up.
The win moves Crestview to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier and keeps the Rebels on course for their sixth consecutive state playoff berth. Springfield falls to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the ITCL upper tier.
"All week, coach Cusick said said to treat this like a playoff game," Gilbert said. "With the loss earlier to South Range we knew another loss could drop us out of contention. All week we prepared like we were playing for our season and it was a great team win."
The first half was a neck-and-neck affair with both teams making big plays on both offense and defense. However, with less than a minute to go in the first half and the score tied at 7, Gilbert made dazzling play that seized momentum for the Rebels.
A penalty and a sack had Crestview facing a third and 33 from their own 27. Cusick was content to call a quarterback draw and punt the ball. The Tigers had Gilbert hemmed in near the line of scrimmage, but the senior eluded several defenders, wove along the near sideline before cutting back into the open field for a 63 yard run. Two plays later, Gilbert tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ferris and the Rebels had a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.
"Springfield had a great pass rush all night," Gilbert said. "Coach called a draw and I was able to find a hole and the line did a great job of getting downfield and picking everyone up. It was a great play call."
"You have to give credit to Gilbert on that one," Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. "We missed one tackle but the rest was all him."
Undaunted, the Tigers took the opening drive of the second half all the way to the Crestview 14 before Gilbert reappeared again, intercepting Tiger quarterback Graham Mincher at the 3.
"The play before that I got called for pass interference and I felt like I had to make a play to make up for it," Gilbert said.
The Rebels preceded to drive 97 yards on 14 plays with Josh McDade scoring from 7 yards out to make it 20-7 late in the third. McDade complemented Gilbert with 82 rushing yards and an one touchdown, while Ferris had 85 yards rushing and three total scores.
"I'm the guy a lot of teams key on but you can't do that with our offense," Gilbert said. "We have a lot of weapons that can run the ball."
The Tigers hung tough into the fourth quarter behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Graham Mincher. Starting his third straight game in place of starter Hunter Snyder, Mincher threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
"Graham did a great job," Guerriero said. "He made some great reads for us and I think our line did a great job of protection."
With just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Rebels nursing a 30-20 lead, Gilbert made one last big play to effectively ice the game, jetting 53 yards around the right side to put the Rebels up by 17.
"We were trying to milk the clock and get a couple of first downs, but the touchdown was nice too," Gilbert said. "It really put the pressure on them to be down three scores."
Springfield hosts Lisbon next week, while Crestview is at United.