COLUMBIANA -Crestview coach Paul Cusick worried about his team having a bit of an emotional hangover against East Palestine after defeating rival Columbiana last week.
It did, but it only lasted less than five minutes on Friday.
After the Bulldogs went up by a field goal in the first quarter, the Rebels scored 59 unanswered points en route to a 65-17 victory.
The Rebels (7-1 and 5-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier) totaled 474 yards of total offense with 294 of that coming from the starters who only played the first half. By the end of 24 minutes the Rebels were up 49-3.
"I knew East Palestine was going to come out and play hard," Cusick said. "I give them credit because we've been there before with low numbers. In that situation you just have to keep playing and that's what they did."
Nick Blower led the Rebel offense with 10 carries for 137 yards including a touchdown run of 15 yards. Blower, the Rebels' leading rusher, injured his ankle on his last play and was seen in street clothes in the second half. Cusick said he was all right and was taken out as a precaution.
"We didn't want him playing anymore on the muddy field," Cusick said.
And it was very muddy. Most of the playing surface had the consistency of a viscous slime. East Palestine had the most trouble with it as it had many blunders, especially on special teams.
In one instance, sophomore Evan Nentwick got in a good position to make a play on a Bulldog punt attempt almost by accident.
"I was sent in to block on that play, but I saw an opening and took it," Nentwick said.
He blocked what was essentially a line drive punt by Jake DiCello. Picking the ball up he ran 17 yards and was knocked off his feet and into the end zone to make it 49-3.
"I have to give credit to special teams coach Dom Perry on that one," Nentwick said.
Another big play came from that of junior linebacker Kaleb Baker. Baker, the second leading tackler on the team behind fellow linebacker Craig Lower, picked off a pass of East Palestine freshman quarterback Luke Cope and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown with 6:17 left in the first quarter.
It was the first touchdown of Baker's high school career.
"I thought when he caught it we would be in good shape with field position, but he just kept breaking tackles," Cusick said.
Baker credited the interception to good pressure from the line.
"After I caught it I stayed behind the buys in black and stayed ahead of the guys in white," Baker said.
East Palestine coach Gare Mattes said his team felt pretty good after going up 3-0 on a DiCello field goal off the first possession of the game, but the team picked up some injuries and struggled the rest of the way.
"I'm not happy," Mattes said. "We have to find a way to rebound and salvage the season. They say that losing builds character. If that's the case then we probably lead the league in character."
The Bulldogs are 1-7 and 0-5 in the league. The lone highlight for East Palestine came in with 2:46 left in the third quarter when DiCello returned a kick 85 yards for a touchdown.
Other offensive leaders for the Rebels included Ryan Moffett who had 14 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Hardenbrook had three carries for 31 yards and touchdowns of 15 and 7 yards. Colin Gilbert hauled in a 47 yard touchdown pass from Adam Coppock. Backup quarterback Nate Climo had a touchdown run of 5 yards. Zack Moore had a 25-yard field goal and eight extra points.
Crestview travels to rival South Range next Friday. The Rebels can clinch at least a share of the ITCL upper tier title with a win.
East Palestine hosts Lisbon next Friday.
Do Crestview's starters get bored sitting out the second half of so many blowouts?
"I like it because it means we're winning," Kaleb Baker said.
The 50/50 raffle prize was $182.