The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020

Knights hope to ground LCC T-birds

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

Even though Lima Central Catholic will be missing a key player, it’s fair to say Friday’s Division VII Region 26 semifinal game will be the toughest test of the year for the Crestview Knights.

The Thunderbirds (6-1) enter the game as the top overall seed in Region 26 and the fourth ranked team in the final Associated Press Division VII poll. Even more impressive is the fact that Lima Central Catholic played a schedule featuring teams with a combined record of 40-18. The only loss of the season came in Week No. 3, 47-28, to Liberty-Benton, a team that finished ranked No. 8 in Division V.

Brody Brecht has rushed for 1,574 yards and 18 touchdowns. Bob Barnes photo

“It is nice to face high level opponents in the regular season to get you ready for the playoffs,” head coach Scott Palte said. “It gives your kids a perspective on the high level of play that you must be playing at to be successful in the postseason and be able to beat good teams.”

Palte and the Thunderbirds will be without running back Shaun Thomas, who’s out with a broken foot. Before the injury, the 6-0, 190 pound senior had 80 carries for 849 yards and 16 touchdowns, plus a team-high 14 receptions for 270 yards and three more scores. He’s also Lima Central Catholic’s all-time leading rusher and scorer.

Junior Quintel Peoples (5-8, 155) will step in at running back. So far, he has 33 carries for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Crestview head coach Jared Owens doesn’t expect much of a drop off.

“LCC in all phases of the game plays aggressively,” Owens said. “They have athletic and physical players, their coaching staff is excellent and they have a great program.”

“I would describe us as very athletic and aggressive, Palte said. “We like to attack on offense and defense. We are blessed with some tremendous athletes and we try to get them in spots on the field where they can be successful on offense and defense. We like to try to be as balanced as possible on the offensive side and blitz and attack on defense.”

Rossi Moore has run for 489 yards and 10 touchdowns and while he hasn’t thrown a lot of passes, quarterback Evan Unruh has been effective, completing 34-of-56 passes for 536 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. As a team, the Thunderbirds average 402 yards and 45.4 points per game, while allowing 297.6 yards and 22 points per contest.

On the flip side, Crestview churns out 351.7 rushing yards per game, with Brody Brecht (164-1,574, 18 touchdowns) and Logan Gerardot (93-868, 12 touchdowns) leading the way. Gerardot is the team’s leading receiver with 12 receptions for 251 yards and a touchdown. Through the air, JJ Ward has completed 29-of-74 passes for 496 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Crestview is a tremendously well-coached team who is playing their best football at this point in the season,” Palte said. “Watching them in Week No. 1 against Spencerville to last week against Spencerville is a night and day different team, and that is a tribute to Coach Owens and his staff. He does a tremendous job and they have had great success in recent years.”

“Crestview’s physicality and size is a major concern on offense and defense,” Palte continued. “Their backfield all run hard, Brecht is an absolute stud, and their offensive line does a tremendous job of getting on and staying on people. Their running game has been very impressive. On defense they are just as physical in controlling the line of scrimmage.”

As the No. 13 seed, Friday’s game will mark the third consecutive week that Crestview will enter as an underdog.

“It’s not something we spend a lot of time talking about,” Owens said. “I think our players wanted to prove that they were a better team than how we were seeded, and I think they still feel like they have more to prove.”

“We have to be extremely fundamental in our positioning and in the reading of our keys,” Owens said. “We have to be physical up front and play with great energy, emotion, and heart.”

Owens also praised his coaching staff for the team’s week-by-week improvement and getting to this point in the postseason.

“All of my staff, including my middle school coaches and all of my high school coaches and volunteers, have done a great job of building relationships with our players,” Owens stated. “They know that we care about them as people and want them to be successful.”

“Coach (Matt) Holden has done a great job of organizing our defense. He, coach (Kyle) Harmon, and coach (Ben) Schamp provide the game plan and instruction that our kids can understand and execute. Offensively, coach (James) Lautzenheiser, Coach (Kory) Lichtensteiger, and coach (Shaun) Balliet have done an excellent job with their position groups. Coach Balliet also leads the scouting and game planning for our special teams.”

“In the end, our kids play hard for these coaches, and that’s all I can ask for out of my staff.”

Friday’s Crestview at Lima Central Catholic game will air live on 99.7FM WKSD.

POSTED: 10/27/20 at 9:14 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports