The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

Preview: Bearcats (3-4) at Knights (5-2)

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

CONVOY — There’s usually no shortage of excitement when Crestview and Spencerville meet on the football field and this Friday’s game between the two Northwest Conference rivals should be no different.

Entering Week No. 8 the Bearcats (3-4, 2-2 NWC) snapped back from back-to-back losses with last Friday’s 56-20 win over Ada, while the Knights (5-2, 2-2 NWC) will try to rebound from a 38-0 loss to state ranked Columbus Grove. Both teams are likely out of the conference championship race but both have playoff aspirations.

Isaac Kline has emerged as a reliable backfield threat for the Crestview Knights. Bob Barnes/file photo

“We are obviously looking to bounce back from a tough loss on the road to Columbus Grove,” Crestview head coach James Lautzenheiser said. “The best way to do that is to focus on empowering our players to trust one another to make plays once the whistle blows and the game begins. We have enough talent to play in and win some big games down the road, but we are still working on developing a consistent, winning attitude throughout the practice week.”

“We have a huge test this week to see if we can focus on a stingy opponent on our own turf. Our coaching staff is looking forward to seeing that type of growth this week as we prepare to host the Bearcats on Friday.”

It’s fair to say Spencerville’s record is deceiving. The Bearcats have lost to four teams with a combined 19-9 record, including Division III Elida and No. 5 Lima Central Catholic.

“We knew early on it was going to be a tough schedule,” Spencerville head coach Chris Sommers said. “The players’ attitudes and weekly preparation has never changed win or lose and they have done a great job in working to get better each week.”

It’s no secret what Spencerville is going to do on offense.

The Bearcats run the ball and run it very well, to the tune of 270 yards per game, tops among all NWC teams. The punishing ground attack is led by Gunner Grigsby (133 carries, 828 yards, eight touchdowns) and is supplemented by Dale Smith (91-545, 11 touchdowns) and Tyler Koenig (69-356, three touchdowns).

“We feel like it gives us an identity,” Sommers said of his team’s running game. “Our players know it and can run it fast and I believe that is very important in whatever you decide to do. There are a lot of great offenses out there and we certainly face really good teams each week that all do their own unique thing. It just comes down to what you believe in.”

“Last year our team faced Spencerville on three separate occasions within the first nine weeks of the season,” Lautzenheiser said. “In a normal season, preparing to face Spencerville one time is enough of a mental and physical challenge. Coach Sommers and the Bearcats are a tough challenge because their offense requires incredible focus and tremendous discipline on each and every play to contain, or they’ll make you pay with a long run to the end zone.”

“Spencerville backs are trained to run hard on rigid tracks and their offensive line comes to play with a tough mentality,” Lautzenheiser added.

Sophomore quarterback Nate Coulter hasn’t been called on to throw much (12-of-17 for 234 yards, two touchdowns), but his favorite target has been Smith, who has six receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Despite last week’s shutout, Crestview has enjoyed success on the scoreboard and in terms of yardage. The Knights are averaging 320 yards per game and the offense has been balanced, with 161 yards rushing and 159 yards passing per game.

In the absence of JJ Ward, Carson Hunter has completed 29-of-65 passes for 441 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions while rushing for 262 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries. Running back Isaac Kline has added 353 yards on 79 carries and Nick Helt (63-295, five touchdowns), is a big part of the three-pronged attack.

“As always they are big and physical, are well coached and very fundamental in all areas,” Sommers said. “Each week we face great coaches and teams and they do a great job. We need to be as sharp as possible each week.”
“If you are a fan of traditional run game football, this is going to be a fun matchup for you,” Lautzenheiser said. “In a game like this, each possession is important because each team has the potential to hold onto the ball for almost an entire quarter during a drive. It’s a matchup that requires focus, patience, and consistent discipline in order to be successful.”

“We are excited for the opportunity to clash with Spencerville on Military Appreciation Night in Convoy. Both communities have a strong relationship with their local veterans, and hopefully, we can put together a game plan that is worthy of the type of community recognition that our teams are attempting to show our veterans and active-duty military personnel.”

POSTED: 10/06/21 at 4:02 am. FILED UNDER: Sports