The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022

Preview: Knights (4-1) vs. Pirates (4-1)

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

A unique challenge awaits Crestview Friday night in Bluffton.

The Knights (4-1, 1-1 NWC) will go up against an old-school option attack that’s run by a fourth-year starter at quarterback who happens to be the Northwest Conference’s leading rusher.

Sophomore Isaac Kline has racked up nearly 200 yards on the ground for the Crestview Knights. Bob Barnes/file photo

Through five games, Bluffton senior Nate Schaadt has amassed 874 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on 105 carries while piloting a flexbone offense that leads the NWC with 303 yards rushing and 385 yards of total offense per game. Bluffton (4-1, 1-1 NWC) also has the top scoring offense among conference teams (36 points per game).

“Nate Schaadt brings a style of play to our offense that is hard to prepare for,” Bluffton head coach Jeff Richards said. “His experience as a four-year starter in a multiple option offense gives us the confidence to trust him with making reads and also communicating adjustments that we see on the sidelines. His overall ability as an almost 200 pound running quarterback makes him a huge threat at the second level when running the ball.”

“Passing, Nate has the ability to make defenses pay throwing deep when they cheat up as well,” Richards added.

Schaadt has completed 28-of-65 passes for 358 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions, with Braedon Jordan serves as his main receiver (10 receptions, 97 yards).

Landon Shutler adds another dimension to the running game with 54 carries for 347 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“Bluffton is a very dynamic and incredibly athletic team,” Crestview head coach James Lautzenheiser said. “Coach Richards probably has one of his largest rosters and I believe that’s a testament to the type of culture that he’s building in Pirate country.”

“We will have to be disciplined in order to keep the power run and option game under control and also have our eyes right when their quarterback decides to pass,” Lautzenheiser continued. “We have challenged our team to be tough and stingy this week in all phases of the game.”

“Harmon Field is a tough environment to get a win on the road, and we know we’ll have to play fast, physical, and disciplined football to compete and win in Week No. 6. Our players understand that this is an opportunity to gain some momentum in league play and that we still need to continue to grow and develop throughout the season.”

Despite missing last week’s game against Delphos Jefferson, JJ Ward continues to lead all NWC passers with 874 yards and nine touchdowns, while completing 49-of-82 passes. In his absence, Carson Hunter completed 14-of-28 passes for 289 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

“I can’t say enough about some of our younger players that stepped up in key roles in the second half of last week’s game,” Lautzenheiser said. “When you see new names in the box score on Saturday morning, that means that someone took advantage of an investment opportunity and ran with it.”

“As we move forward to this week, we’ll continue to lean on some of these younger players in key positions as still have some lingering issues in some spots. It helps you sleep a lot better at night when you know you have some younger players chomping at the bit to get in there and prove their worth.”

Entering Week No. 6 Rontae Jackson leads the conference with 364 yards and five touchdowns on 11 receptions, while Ayden Lichtensteiger has nine catches for 109 yards and Nick Helt has recorded eight receptions for 108 yards. Helt also leads the Knights in rushing (54-255, five touchdowns) while Isaac Kline has added 191 yards on 39 carries.

Overall, the Knights are second in total offense (358 yards per game) and they’ve done it with a balanced offense, averaging 182 yards rushing and 176 passing.

“Crestview is a tough team to prepare for as they are very disciplined and well coached,” Richards said. “They have a solid group of big guys up front and some talented athletes at their skill positions. They have a great culture and respond well to adversity. It will be a tough, physical game for sure.”

Last year’s Crestview-Bluffton game was canceled by COVID-19, but the Knights have won four straight against the Pirates, with Bluffon’s last win coming in 2015 (41-28).

POSTED: 09/22/21 at 3:54 am. FILED UNDER: Sports