The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

NWC preview: 6-3 Leipsic at 6-3 Crestview

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

CONVOY — Balance has been the key for a pair 6-3 teams, Crestview (3-3 NWC) and Leipsic (5-1 NWC), two Northwest Conference teams that will square off in the regular season finale on Friday.

The visiting Vikings are averaging 152 yards rushing and 154 yards passing per game and more numbers show exactly how balanced NWC newcomer Leipsic is. Quarterback Dillan Neise has completed 106-of-170 passes for 1,303 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. His two favorite receivers are Quin Schroeder (35-545, eight touchdowns) and Trent Siefker (37-521, three touchdowns) and the team’s top two running backs are Fabian Ray (84-451, 10 touchdowns) and Hayden Hiegel (67-436, eight touchdowns).

Sophomore running back Isaac Kline has rushed for over 400 yards for the Knights this season. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

“I think the fact that while we don’t have any one player who jumps out at you, we have lots of quality players on both sides of the ball, kids who mesh well together and compliment each other,” Leipsic head coach Joe Kirkendall said. “That is difficult at the Division VII level sometimes.”

“We have an undersized group but kids who play very fast, all across the board, Kirkendall added. “Our ability to run lets us play very aggressively.”

“Their coaching staff does a great job with scheme and technique, and they always get the most out of their players regardless of the size of the roster or the physical size of the players on the team,” Crestview head coach James Lautzenheiser said of the Vikings. “This year’s Leipsic squad is hard-nosed, aggressive and has really developed since the first few weeks of the season. Their skill players are fast and physical and led on the field by a very good quarterback. Their defense gives you plenty of looks and is quite advantageous when it comes to turnovers.”

“Their linemen on both sides of the ball are undersized compared to some teams that we’ve faced but they play well above their weight. They use speed and effort quite well, and will present some unique challenges to our team.”

Crestview has shown great balance this year as well, averaging 175 yards rushing and 175 yards passing per game while leading all conference teams in total yards per game.

Two quarterbacks have been effective – JJ Ward has completed 50-of-74 passes for 870 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions, while Carson Hunter has connected on 40-of-80 tosses for 706 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Three receivers have split catches, with Kellin Putman grabbing 16 passes for 195 yards and a score, Rontae Jackson pulling in 15 passes for 487 yards and seven touchdowns and Ayden Lichtensteiger hauling in 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown.

Nick Helt and Isaac Kline are running neck-and-neck, literally, with Helt rushing for 405 yards and seven touchdowns on 80 carries, while Kline has 100 carries for 403 yards and a touchdown.

“I think Crestview may be the most balanced offense in the league outside of us,” Kirkendall said. “They obviously want to run the ball but they have a nice passing game to utilize some very good athletes on the outside. They also have a really nice pair of linebackers inside who give them the ability to lighten the box vs the run.”

“Their size and ability to establish the run game is a concern, as they are much bigger than us up front, but their big play potential also factors in to what you do defensively.”

On top of everything else, it could be the final home game of the season for Crestview and 13 seniors on the team. The Knights currently sit at No. 10 in Region 26 and will need a win and possibly some help to get into the top eight. It’s also a time where coaches have to do a balancing act between focusing on the game at hand while considering playoff scenarios.

“We know that we have a good chance at hosting a playoff game if we can beat Leipsic this week and that’s a nice prize to consider, but we’re focused on our preparation for the Vikings first and foremost,” Lautzenheiser said. “We know that we stand a good chance at playing in the playoffs regardless of this week’s outcome, but we’d like to finish out the regular season on a positive note that connects to our team continuing to grow and develop.”

POSTED: 10/20/21 at 3:59 am. FILED UNDER: Sports