COLUMBIANA -Crestview senior defensive end C.J. Collins had a satisfied look on his face after his team's 30-20 victory over Columbiana on Friday at Firestone Park.
Bloodied, bruised and with steam rolling off his head, there was no mistaking that he was involved in perhaps the most important Inter-Tri County League upper tier game of the season.
"It's a physical rivalry, but it's not like we don't like each other," Collins said. "A lot of us our friends off the field, but today it's all business."
The Rebels (6-1, 4-0) lead the ITCL upper tier by a game with three to play. Columbiana (6-1, 3-1) made sure they earned it.
"It's always a war with Columbiana's linemen," Collins said. "(Columbiana coach) Bob Spaite does a good job coaching them and those guys do anything they can to block you."
It was a game where the Clippers had the advantage in total yardage (394-346) and even had a slight edge in the turnover department (2-1). But, it was the way the Rebels managed the game that made the difference.
After an unremarkable first half in which they had a 9-7 lead at the break, the Rebels rolled the dice on the opening kick of the second half with an onside try. But that didn't go their way.
"We saw something on tape and decided to try," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "It was a gamble and they had good field position after it. I'm just glad the defense held."
When the Rebels got the ball back on their first offensive possession of the second half, they went 47 yards in six plays to tally an Adam Coppock 2-yard touchdown to make it 15-7 with 7:37 left in the frame.
"That was a big drive," Coppock said.
Columbiana didn't give up and bounced back into the game on a 14-yard touchdown run from Britton Steiginga with 3:27 left in the third quarter to make it 16-14. Steiginga had set up that scoring drive with an interception. He also had a fumble recovery off an impressive strip of Crestview's Collin Gilbert deep inside Columbiana's territory in the first half.
The Clippers seemed to have momentum going into the final quarter, but one play turned the tide. On the second play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Coppock got a big hole from his line and raced 59 yards to give the Rebels a more comfortable 23-14 lead.
"I give all of the credit to the line on that one," Coppock said. "I don't think I was touched."
Spaite said the play reminded him of a college football game he was watching the night before on TV.
"It was just like the Oregon-California game last night," Spaite said. "They say that California always plays Oregon's spread offense well. And a lot of what we were doing was the same thing California was doing and you know all it takes is that one miss in a spread offense. That's what happened to California and that's what happened to us."
Oregon won that game 43-15.
Columbiana did attempt to make it a little tougher for the Rebels at the end of the game when Brandon Hacker plunged in from 2 out to make it 23-20 with eight minutes left in the game.
The Rebels, however, used a 13-play, 63-yard drive ending in a Nick Blower 19-yard touchdown run with 1:57 left to put it out of reach.
Spaite blamed a lot of the Clippers' woes on penalties (eight for 80 yards), but the Rebels (nine for 95) actually had more.