NORTH LIMA - Crestview's three-headed quarterback had a big role in handing the Rebels a fourth straight Inter-Tri County League upper tier football championship with a 34-19 victory over South Range on Friday.
On the Rebels first offensive play of the game, second-string quarterback Collin Gilbert threw a 52-yard touchdown to third string quarterback Nathan Climo on a trick play and starting quarterback Adam Coppock rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns as Crestview improved to 8-1 and 6-0 in the ITCL upper tier.
Coupled with Columbiana's loss to Springfield on Friday, the Rebels clinched the title outright with one week to play.
Coppock, a senior, was a part of the last four championships and said this one was special.
"I played special teams when I was a freshman, but I started on offense as a sophomore," Coppock said. "The last one feels better than the first three to be honest."
What made it special was the way the Rebels came out. The trick play was executed so well that no Raider was anywhere near Climo as he caught the ball and waltzed into the end zone.
"We wanted to come out aggressive," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "I was worried about our guys playing not to lose instead of playing to win. That kick started things."
Gilbert said that play was worked on all week in practice, so the Rebels' intent was very clear well in advance of the game.
"The coach drew up the play and thought it would work," Gilbert said. "We executed it well all week and it was a big play to start out on because as you can see we didn't win pretty."
"I put a move on right off the line and after that I looked up and saw that Collin threw a great ball," Climo said.
On the kickoff that followed, Zack Moore pooched a kick onto the muddy Raider turf which ended up in the hands of the Rebels' Matt Hardenbrook. Six plays later, Coppock walked into the end zone from 2 out to make it 14-0 with 7:22 left in the first quarter.
"They had that nice little trick play there," South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. "We weren't in position where we needed to be. They got us on that one and then they got us on that onside kick. All of the sudden, they're up 14 and we start pressing a little bit. It started snowballing."
A Zack Moore 32-yard field goal made it 17-0 with 11:54 left in the first half. Nick Blower, who went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season with a 17-carry, 129-yard performance, tacked on a 39-yard touchdown scamper with 7:32 left in the half to make it 24-0.
South Range attempted to make a game of it as Dan Good hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ross Stoffer with 5:10 left in the first half to make it 24-7. However, an interception by Crestview's Dillon Gorby set up a Moore 24-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the half to make it 27-7.
The teams traded fumbles to start the third quarter. South Range then missed a golden opportunity after Stoffer hit a wide open Zach Thorpe on a 30-yard pass, but Thorpe lost control of the ball near the end zone and Crestview pounced on the fumble for a touchback.
Coppock closed out the game with his 13th touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter. By that time it was 34-7 and well in hand for the Rebels.
South Range senior Alex Dickey, who had 12 carries for 177 yards, rounded out the scoring for the home team with a 69-yard touchdown run and an 18-yard touchdown reception from Stoffer.
With the championship in hand, Cusick and the Rebels will head down to Lisbon next Friday to finish out the regular season.
"I don't think people appreciate how hard it is to stay on top," Cusick said. "Having gone through the process, it's harder to stay there than it is to get there."
South Range is at East Palestine next Friday.
South Range has been plagued by injuries all season and that trend continued on Friday. Starting center Adam Peterson went down in the first half and did not return. Joe Horn, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 325-pound lineman, had a leg injury in the second half and went to the hospital by ambulance.
Cusick did not know that Springfield had beat Columbiana following the game, so he stressed in his postgame speech that the Rebels had to beat Lisbon to win the title outright.
"I was only worried about what we had to do," Cusick said.
South Range honored 52 seniors who participated in various fall sports and activities before the game.