SPENCERVILLE —- The rivalry between Spencerville and Crestview gets renewed on the gridiron Friday night and this game will have a major say in who wins the Northwest Conference.
Spencerville (3-1, 1-0) NWC opened its season with a 34-7 loss to Patrick Henry and many thought the Bearcats were in for a down season. But since that defeat, the Bearcats posted huge wins over Parkway and Holgate and then escaped with a 22-19 win over Ada last week in its NWC opener.
Bearcat head coach John Zerbe said the early loss to Patrick Henry is a little more understandable because of how good Patrick Henry is this year. Since the first-week loss the Bearcats have been doing what most people have seen the Bearcats do the last few years.
“We just thought if we won a few games and got into the Northwest Conference schedule and got a win in the NWC the first week that would be kind of huge to boost our confidence and that was,” Zerbe said. “To go to Ada and win at Ada is incredibly tough. It was a real good start to our league season and a real good way to start us on the schedule to come.”
But no time to celebrate for the Bearcats as they prepare for Crestview.
Crestview (3-0, 1-0 NWC), ranked No. 4 in Division VII Associated Press football poll, opened the season with three big wins over its nonleague opponents, but had its hand’s full last week and edged Columbus Grove 28-25 in its NWC opener.
Knights head coach Jared Owens said his team has been playing with a lot of energy and emotion but disciplined football and last week’s three-point victory was an indication that his team has the desire to win but there is also room for improvement.
“It was both a confidence booster and showed we need to work on some stuff,” Owens said. “It feels good to beat a well-coached team that is solid every where with some great players and a physical defense and you have to tip your cap to them for forcing us into some mistakes.”
Zerbe said Crestview is coming at them with what they always come at them with.
“They are a clone of what I have seen out of Crestview the last few years,” Zerbe said. “They are always well coached and they always have an an elite quarterback who is very good at their style of offense. We’ve had to face several good quarterbacks over the last several years and we are again with an elusive, quick quarterback that we are going to have to contain.”
This year that guy is Crestview quarterback Drew Kline. The dual threat signal caller ranks third in the league in rushing with 536 yards and eight touchdowns and has passed for 484 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
As a team Crestview is third in the NWC in rushing, averaging 256.5 yards a game, and second in the league in total yards with 1,510 yards.
“We have to be aggressive and physical,” Zerbe said. “That is the most important thing. Their quarterback makes a lot of plays even when the play has broken down and they may not have it completely blocked right but he is making plays and he is throwing the ball down the field. We have to limit what he can do on the field.”
For the Knights, the defensive plan is simple. Stop the run.
The Knights have done a great job limiting the run this year as they are tops in the NWC, allowing just 368 total yards (92 yards a game) on the ground and first overall in yards allowed (207.5 yards a game).
“There is a lot their running game does to your team if they get drives of 8, 10 or 12 plays,” Owens said. “It wears down your defense. It also puts pressure on our offense if they put up points to score. We have to be physical throughout the game.”
Spencerville leads the NWC in rushing averaging at 317.5 yards a game and is second in total offense with 1,510 yards. The Bearcats boost three rushers in the top 10 in the NWC. Spencerville running back Calvin Wilson is sixth overall in rushing with 423 yards on 51 carries and six touchdowns. Backfield mate Chris Picker, who rushed for more than 100 yards against Ada last week, is eighth in the league with 336 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries. Keaton Lotz has amassed 292 yards on 56 carries with three touchdowns.
“Offensively we have to have long drives and keep the ball away from their offense,” Zerbe said. “We cannot have any turnovers. Turnovers have hurt us and stopped our momentum and things we want to do. We have to clean up those mistakes.
Zerbe said the younger players on offense have been progressing game-by-game and he thinks the Bearcats are starting to hit their stride.
“We are one dimensional but we are proud of being run heavy,” Zerbe said. “We can throw the ball when we have to but it is not something we do often but we can do it. We have kids who can throw the ball and catch the ball. But that is who we want to be, a power running football team.
Owens said in order to win this game they are going to have to win the game in the trenches. The Knights coach added that the Crestview defense cannot let Spencerville’s running attack establish sustained drives and they need to make tackles when it counts.
“It is going to take a strong effort up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Owens said. “They have some players who do things well in the open space and we are going to have to make one-on-one tackles when the opportunity comes up.”
In other NWC action, Columbus Grove (2-2, 0-1 NWC) and Ada (2-2, 0-1 NWC) are both coming off gut-wrenching losses and both will be looking to get back in the win column. Allen East (3-1, 0-1 NWC) will travel to Bluffton (3-1, 1-0). Allen East is coming off a tough 33-22 loss to co-league leader Delphos Jefferson (4-0, 1-0 NWC) and Bluffton (3-1, 1-0 NWC) posted a big 42-14 win over Paulding (1-3, 0-1 NWC). The Panthers will have their hands full when they travel to Delphos.
Western Buckeye League
Three teams remained unbeaten in the WBL with Wapakoneta (4-0, 3-0 WBL), Ottawa-Glandorf (4-0, 3-0 ) WBL and St. Marys (4-0, 3-0 WBL) all posting big wins last week.
St. Marys, coming off a 58-14 win over Kenton (1-3, 1-2 WBL) heads to Elida (2-2, 1-2). The Bulldogs are coming off a tough defensive 12-7 loss to Wapakoneta.
The Redskins host Bath (1-3, 0-3). The Wildcats lost to Defiance (1-3, 1-2 WBL). Defiance will face off against Celina (2-2, 2-1) which came up just short, 21-14, against Ottawa-Glandorf.
The Titans will travel to Shawnee (1-3, 1-2), which is celebrating its first victory of the season and ended a long losing streak after beating Van Wert 28-26.
Van Wert (0-4, 0-3 WBL) faces Kenton (1-3, 1-2 WBL).
Lima Senior (2-2, 0-1 TRAC) is coming off a 42-35 shootout loss in its Three Rivers Athletic League opener to Toledo Whitmer and the Spartans will try to end their modest two-game losing streak when they travel to Fremont Ross (2-2, 1-0).
The Little Giants are coming off a 38-29 win over Toledo St. John’s Jesuit in their TRAC opener.
Fremont Ross was led by quarterback Boston Swaisgood who ran and passed his team to victory. The senior signal caller had two touchdowns throws and ran for a third score.
The Little Giants lost their season opener to Springfield, 51-32 and then bounced back to beat Southview 35-7. Fremont Ross then lost to Sandusky 40-9.
Lima Central Catholic
The T-Birds (0-4) seek their first win of the season when they battle Toledo Rogers (1-3). The Rams opened the season with a win over Southview but have lost three straight games to Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (44-0), Anthony Wayne (47-0) and Bellevue (48-0).
LCC is coming off a 40-29 loss to Bishop Ready but got an outstanding offensive showing from Thomas Williams who had four touchdown catches.
Northwest Central Conference
Perry (2-2, 1-0) is coming off a convincing 37-13 win over Ridgemont in the Commodores’ league opener, and will try to build on that momentum when they travel to Sidney to take on Lehman (1-0, 2-2).
Lehman is coming off a big 39-18 win over Upper Scioto Valley.
The Rams (1-3, 0-1) will try to get back in the win column when they face winless Waynesfield-Goshen (0-1, 0-4),
The Tigers were defeated, 35-20, in a non-conference game against Hardin Northern.
Delphos St. John’s
Delphos St. Johns (3-1, 2-0), recently ranked in the top 10 in the AP in the Division VII High School Football poll, stays in the hunt for a Midwest Athletic Conference title with a game against Anna on Saturday.
Anna (3-1, 1-1) downed New Bremen 35-12 Friday night. In the win, Rocket quarterback Travis Meyer finished the night 14 of 22 for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Aideny Endlsey led the Rockets in rushing with 86 yards on 12 carries.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1