COLUMBIANA - Crestview coach Paul Cusick smiled as he clutched the game ball after the Rebels' 57-14 victory over South Range on Friday.
Having just completed the first 10-0 season in school history, he had no idea what would become of the ball.
He knew it symbolized something special though.
"I don't know what we're going to do with this one yet," Cusick said. "It's Collin (Gilbert's) favorite ball, so we might have to substitute another one in there."
South Range put up as much of a fight as Crestview has seen during the Inter-Tri County League Tier 1 slate, but it was far from enough to prevent the Rebels from claiming their fifth straight league championship.
Crestview senior running back Nick Blower rushed for a career-high 301 yards - along with three touchdowns - as he and the rest of the Rebel starters played into the fourth quarter for the first time since the first game of the season against Columbiana.
Gilbert rushed for 144 yards and four touchdowns. It was extra special for the junior quarterback because he was going up against his cousin South Range senior Robert Seman.
"I texted him last night before the game," Gilbert said. "I said 'growing up was fun, but it doesn't get any better than coming down to this game.'"
Seman did his best to equal his younger cousin's output. He hauled in seven passes for 195 yards including touchdowns of 29 and 85 yards. The 85-yarder came with 8:40 left in the third quarter and had the Raiders within striking distance at 28-14.
"We had some leeway there, so I could admire what he did a bit," Gilbert said. "If that had been a game winner, I don't know if I would have been real happy with him. I want to see him do well. He's a great guy."
South Range did recover an onside kick after that touchdown following a lengthy 10-minute discussion by officials on the legality of the play. It didn't bother the Rebels though.
"It was probably the right call by the officials after everything was sorted out," Cusick said.
A few minutes later, Gilbert was racing down the sidelines on an 80-yard touchdown run and the game was put to bed.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior Jake Ferris came up big with two interceptions - the first of his career. One was initially returned for a touchdown, but it was wiped out by a penalty.
Ferris, who scored defensive and special teams touchdowns earlier in the season, was given a chance by coaches to add an offensive touchdown to his total when he plunged in from 1-yard out with 4:15 to go in the third.
"(When we got the ball to the 1), coach Cusick kind of gave me a little look it seemed like and just gave me the opportunity to punch it in," Ferris said.
The Rebels broke last season's school record scoring mark of 531, set in 13 games. They now have 563 points heading into the playoffs.
"To be able to do that in 10 games is pretty impressive," Cusick said. "Our offense has really played well and has made plays, game after game."
Raider coach Dan Yeagley said he was pleased with the effort from sophomore quarterback Ryan Miller who was making his second career start. Miller completed 11 of 24 passes for 233 yards and the two touchdowns to Seman.
"He's a very good quarterback," Yeagley said. "He had a great leader in (starting quarterback) Ross Stoffer (who was lost for the season against Springfield). Ross was still coaching him on the sidelines. He did some things very well tonight and I'm looking forward to having him for two more years."
Crestview's first round playoff game will likely be at home at 7 p.m. next Saturday, but the Rebels will have to wait until tonight to see how everything shakes out.
"We're in week 11," Cusick said. "We can't worry about who, when and where right now. We'll just have to wait to see how everything shakes out."
- The 50/50 raffle prize was $262.
- Nick Blower has 1,729 yard rushing this season.
- Penalties and indecision by game officials on an on-side kick made for a really long third quarter.
- A loud cheer when up when it was announced that Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's beat Ursuline, 16-14. That result most likely handed Crestview a home game for the first round of the playoffs.
- Both teams wore orange trim as a tribute to Rebel football player Dustin Gorby who is undergoing cancer treatments.