The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

Week No. 5 preview: Knights vs. Wildcats

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

CONVOY — Friday night will mark the halfway point of the 2021 high school football season and the Crestview Knights will try to do something they haven’t had to do yet this year – shake off a loss.

The Knights fell to 3-1 (0-1 NWC) with Friday’s 42-14 loss to Allen East and now, Crestview will host a much-improved Delphos Jefferson team.

Rontae Jackson and the rest of Crestview’s defense will try to contain Delphos Jefferson dual threat quarterback Colin Bailey on Friday. Bob Barnes/file photo

“The loss at Allen East was difficult in a number of ways for our team last Friday evening,” head coach James Lautzenheiser said. “We had some opportunities to close the game to within one score at the half and also begin the second half with a scoring drive, but failed to finish the job when those opportunities were within reach.”

“Our defense significantly improved as the game moved forward into the second half but our players have to be ready to execute the game plan out of the gates. We will continue to focus on the little things in practice this week, but we are stressing this week’s game as an opportunity to respond and bounce back. We have the players on hand to help us get back on track this week against Delphos.”

The Knights enter game averaging 28.8 points and 337.8 yards per game (189.5 rushing, 148.3 passing). Quarterback JJ Ward is tops among all NWC passers with 585 yards through the air (35-of-54), six touchdowns and two interceptions and Rontae Jackson is the conference leader in receiving yards with 354 on nine catches, plus three touchdowns. Hunter Rothgeb has snared six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Ayden Lichtensteiger has nine receptions for 109 yards and a score.

Nick Helt continues to lead the Crestview ground game with 49 carries for 226 yards and four touchdowns, followed by Donovan Wreath (16-151) and Ward (23-120, three touchdowns).

“Crestview has a big, physical offensive line,” Delphos Jefferson head coach Ben Rahrig said. “They like to run the ball and their offensive line does a good job of moving people. Their running back, Nick Helt, does a good job of finding holes and cutting across the pursuit when needed and their fullback, Donovan Wreath, is a solid runner and is difficult to bring down, which makes the option game hard to stop.”

“Their quarterback, JJ Ward has a nice arm and can stretch out your defense when you try to focus on stopping the run,” Rahrig added.

On defense, the Knights allow 22 points and 342.8 yards per game, including 145.5 rushing and 197.3 passing.

“Our players recognize the need to make some adjustments this week and respond to the adversity that lies before us,” Lautzenheiser said. “While the loss to Allen East stings, we are still a 3-1 ball club with a lot to play for in front of us this week and beyond. We need to continue to work together to grow toward those goals at the end of this week and throughout the rest of the regular season. How we respond this week will say a lot about our potential to push toward those goals.”

After back-to-back seasons of 1-9 and 0-6, Delphos Jefferson is 2-2 (0-1 NWC). The Wildcats snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 28-14 season opening win over Delphos St. John’s, then after a 33-26 loss to Ayersville, outscored Perry 35-30. Last week, Jefferson fell to three time defending conference champion Columbus Grove 31-7.

Jefferson is averaging 24 points 313.5 yards per game, but head coach Ben Rahrig believes the biggest area of improvement has been on the other side of the ball, where the Wildcats allow 27 points and 342.8 yards per game.

“I feel like our defense has gotten better since last year,” Rahrig explained. “We set goals to be a better tackling football team and to pursue to the ball better. So far we seem to be doing that. Also, we have been able to get more pressure on the quarterback and have gotten some turnovers on defense.”

Dual threat quarterback Colin Bailey leads the offense with 96 carries for 576 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 37-of-57 passes for 434 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Jacob Simmons has 38 carries for 220 yards and a touchdown and Andrew Miller leads the conference in receptions with 14 for 143 yards and a touchdowns.

“Delphos is a markedly improved team this year,” Lautzenheiser stated “They are low in numbers on their roster but they are playing more disciplined on defense and are quite explosive on offense. If you don’t take care of the football they can exploit turnovers and their skill players at quarterback and receiver present significant challenges to our defensive approach.”

“We hope to be able to use our depth at a variety of positions to wear them down throughout the game.”

Crestview won last year’s game 42-8 and the Knights have posted four consecutive victories over the Knights.

Friday’s game will air live on 99.7FM WKSD.

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 8:55 pm. FILED UNDER: Sports