CALCUTTA-With nine starters gone from last season's stellar offense, the Crestview defense knows it may have to shoulder a heavy load this season.
With the game on the line Friday against Beaver Local, they came through with flying colors.
Behind a gutsy goal-line stand in the final minute, the Rebels fought their way past the Beavers 14-7 at Beaver Local High School.
"That's who we are right now," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "We're not going to put up a bunch of points like we have in the past, we're going to have to grind some games out."
The game appeared headed for overtime after Beaver Local running back Robert Johnston took a short pass from quarterback Trevore McLaughlin and jaunted 64 yards to the Crestview 3 with one minutes left.
Crestview cornerback Jared Hayden saved a touchdown by tracking down Johnston from behind.
"I was lined up on the opposite side of the field and I didn't see the ball until after he (Johnston) had it," Hayden said. "I just started sprinting as hard as I could. I could tell my stride was longer and thought I could get him."
Given a reprieve, the Crestview defense dug deep, stuffing the Beavers on two consecutive runs and breaking up a third down pass. On 4th down with 18 seconds left, the the snap sailed wide of McLaughlin, who fell on the ball at the 17 as the Rebel sideline erupted.
"Jared (Hayden) saved us with a great play," Cusick said. "I challenged the defense to make it stand up and they stepped up in a huge way."
Cruelly, it was the third fumbled snap of the game for the Beavers.
"I'll have to look at the tape to see what happened," Beaver Local head coach Jeremy McElroy said. "It's really tough to work so hard and have a game end like that, but we'll learn and grow from it."
After being stifled the whole game, the Crestview offense finally hit its stride late in the fourth quarter. The Rebels drove 73 yards in two minutes to score the go-ahead touchdown with 3:27 left on a 2 yard run by quarterback Jesse Best.
"We brought in a tight end to block and it made a big difference for us," Cusick said. "We finally found some rhythm."
Best finished with 111 rushing yards on 10 carries, but was bottled up after scampering 54 yards for a touchdown on the first drive of the game.
"We're still growing on offense," Best said. "Beaver had some tough guys up front and gave us some problems, but we got a lot of energy from the way our defense kept playing."
The Beavers steadily moved the ball a little at a time the whole game, gaining 125 rushing yards on 53 carries. Robert Johnston led the way with 78 yards on 25 carries. However, a missed field goal and three fourth down stops by Crestview doomed Beaver Local.
The Beavers tied late in the third quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from McLaughlin to Cody Riddle who made an over the shoulder catch with two defenders draped on him.
"For most of the game we moved th ball better than they did,"McElroy said. "But "We didn't do a good job with the little things and it all added up at the end for us," McElroy said. "Crestview made the little plays and they won.
Beaver Local trainer Mike Persohn was the one playing hurt Friday night after stepping awkwardly on Beaver Local's uneven sideline before the game.
"I think I might have broke my foot, but I'm not sure," Persohn said. "I'm just trying to gut it out for tonight."
C -Jesse Best 54 run (Austin McIntosh kick)
B-Cody Riddle 21 pass from Trevore McLaughlin ((Chase Hilliard kick)
C-Best 2 run (McIntosh kick)
First downs 1016
Total Yards 191274
RUSHING-Crestview, Jesse Best 10-111, Zach Hicks 13-40; Beaver Local, Robert Johnston 25-78, Kole McKenzie 10-26.
PASSING-Crestview, Jesse Best 7-16-47-1; Beaver Local, Trevore McLaughlin 9-24-149-0.
RECEIVING-Crestview, Spencer DeSalvo 3-19, Evan Beachler 2-14; Beaver Local, Robert Johnston 4-103, Bryce McKenzie 2-18, Cody Riddle 1-21.
INTERCEPTIONS-Beaver Local, Bryce McKenzie
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Beaver Local, Bryce McKenzie.