By MICHAEL BURWELL
LIMA — Convoy Crestview’s football team doesn’t have the biggest backfield.
But the Knights showed just how effective they could be in Saturday’s Division VII Region 26 semifinal against Arlington.
Convoy Crestview racked up 412 rushing yards on 46 carries, including three touchdowns of 30 yards or more, as the Knights topped the Red Devils 28-7 at Spartan Stadium in Lima.
“We try to establish the line of scrimmage and No. 11 for them (Arlington defensive end Logan Speyer) is a really good football player and they play well around him,” Convoy Crestview coach Jared Owens said. “Kids flow to the ball and they’re fast, but we had a size advantage (on the line) and our backs aren’t very big, so they can hide back there a little bit and if they can get a crease, we can make some plays.”
Convoy Crestview (9-3) advanced to its first regional final in its fifth playoff appearance. The Knights will get a rematch with McComb after the Panthers beat Hicksville 42-0 on Saturday.
As a No. 8 seed last season with a 4-6 record, the Knights nearly beat the No. 1 Panthers but lost 27-26 in a regional quarterfinal.
“We knew that they are physical and big and well-coached and a good football team,” Owens said of the Panthers. “We know that, so I hope our kids sleep on this tonight and then I know that they’ll come back and be focused to prepare because we’re going to have to have really good execution to be able to play well in that game.”
Convoy Crestview’s run-heavy offense churned out big run after big run. Drew Kline, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound sophomore quarterback, scored on a 36-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 53-yard scamper, untouched, in the third. He added a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth as he finished with 164 yards on 12 carries.
Luke Gerardot (5-9, 180-pound senior) bolted 87 yards for a TD on the second play of the second quarter to give the Knights a 14-7 lead. He had 12 carries for 147 yards.
“They’re just such an explosive offensive team. They have such big-play potential,” Arlington coach Josh McGrain said after the Red Devils finished their season at 8-4. “You want to try to limit their opportunities to what they got offensively.”
Arlington’s lone touchdown came on a 45-yard interception return by Matt Crawford on the last play of the first quarter as the Red Devils tied the game 7-7.
Turnovers played a key part for both teams.
Convoy Crestview’s Trevor Gibson (7 carries, 52 yards), a 6-foot, 175-pound junior, had a 38-yard run in the second quarter but fumbled inside the Arlington 10. The Red Devils’ Devin Plunkett came up with the recovery.
Gerardot had a fumble inside the Arlington 5 late in the third quarter that was recovered by the Red Devils as well.
“We can’t turn the football over and make some of those mistakes and continue to win, so that’ll be a focus this week and we’re going to work really hard to get it corrected,” Owens said.
The Knights responded on defense, though.
Convoy Crestview forced a turnover on downs late in the first half after Crawford, Arlington’s quarterback, found Caleb Price for a 45-yard gain to the Convoy Crestview 26.
After Gerardot’s fumble, the Knights got the ball back on the Arlington 11 after Speyer caught a pass from Crawford, fumbled it and Dylan Grandstaff recovered it. Kline has his 5-yard touchdown run two plays later.
“I was really pleased with the way we responded to those things because a lot of times, it was a hiccup on that play but then we came right back and defensively got a stop,” Owens said of the Knights’ defense, which forced three Arlington turnovers and held the Red Devils to 19 rushing yards. “Defensively, I can’t say enough good things about how well we played on that side of the football.”
The Red Devils found success in the passing game. Crawford, a senior, threw for 205 yards on 11 of 28 passing, while Price had six catches for 147 yards.
“They were really crowding the box on us, so we knew we probably needed to go outside to try to throw the ball a little bit and we were able to complete some passes,” McGrain said. “But we just weren’t consistent enough to kind of punch some things in there and get an offensive touchdown on the board.”
Crawford had two interceptions, though, both by Derick Dealey. Both picks were in Knights’ territory, including one in the end zone.
“The kid’s broken the same thumb twice this year and continues to play with that cast on his hand,” Owens said of Dealey. “He hasn’t missed a practice other than when he was getting a pin put in it, let alone a game. I’d take 100 of him.”
Payton Knittle (5-8, 160) added 49 rushing yards on 12 carries, and Kline was 5 of 10 passing for 64 yards.
Senior Gage Beck had 39 rushing yards on eight carries, including a 21-yard gain, for the Red Devils. Speyer, who will play defensive end for Miami (Ohio) University next year, had four catches for 59 yards.
“I’m really proud with our kids,” McGrain said. “You take a lot about how our season started, getting down against Anna (28-0 loss in Week 1), and our kids responded. That’s kind of been the way that we’ve been all year long.
“We’ve always responded, so I’m really proud of our seniors for leading the way for us this year.”
Convoy Crestview 7 7 7 7 — 28
Arlington 7 0 0 0 — 7
CC — Kline 35 run (Hicks kick)
ARL — Crawford 45 interception return (Rowan kick)
CC — Gerardot 87 run (Hicks kick)
CC — Kline 53 run (Hicks kick)
CC — Kline 5 run (Hicks kick)
First Downs: Crestview, 17; Arlington, 11
Rushes-Yards: Crestview, 46-412; Arlington, 20-19
Passing Yards: Crestview, 64; Arlington, 205
Comp.-Att.-Int.: Crestview, 5-10-1; Arlington, 11-28-2
Punts-Avg.: Crestview, 2-38; Arlington, 5-27.4
Fumbles-Lost: Crestview, 2-2; Arlington, 2-1
Penalties-Yards: Crestview, 7-81; Arlington, 4-50
RUSHING — Convoy Crestview, Kline 15-164, Gerardot 12-147, Gibson 7-52, Knittle 12-49. Arlington, Beck 8-39, Plunkett 5-8, O’Rear 1-1, Crawford 6-(minus-29).
PASSING — Convoy Crestview, Kline 5-10-1-64. Arlington, 11-28-2-205.
RECEIVING– Convoy Crestview, Sheets 3-49, Clark 1-11, Van Cleave 1-4. Arlington, Price 6-147, Speyer 4-59, Beck 1-(minus-1).
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