Twenty-two days later…
Some playoff teams have barely heard of their Week 11 opponents. Crestview and Spencerville know each other like the back of their hands.
In fact, Crestview played host to Spencerville less than a month ago, on Oct. 17. The Knights won that Northwest Conference showdown in thrilling fashion, scoring a two-point conversion on a pass that came after a bad snap late in the game for a 22-21 win.
Three weeks later, No. 4-seeded Crestview (8-2) and No. 5 Spencerville (8-2) will do it again in the Division VI, Region 20 playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Convoy.
It is Crestview’s first-ever home playoff game and their third appearance in the postseason (2013, 2005). Last year the Knights beat LCC before falling to Ada. Meanwhile, Spencerville is making its second appearance in the postseason, the Bearcats’ first trip was in 2006 when they fell to host Allen East.
“The kids want another shot at Crestview, but at the same time, every year you have a plan for certain teams,” Spencerville coach John Zerbe said. “Then you play them once and you pull out little things you’ve been planning. Now you’re at a point where, what’s left in the bag to pull out?”
Zerbe said both teams “simplified” things as the game went on and that’s probably the type of game fans will see Friday.
And that means two vicious ground attacks.
“When you play Spencerville, you have to play with a high level of physicality on every play,” Crestview coach Jared Owens said. “Any time you take a play off or have a lapse in responsibility, they’re so machine-like in the way they do things, and they’re so well-coached, they’re going to exploit that.”
If the one-point difference in their first game isn’t enough to show how even these two teams are, chew on these stats: In the NWC, Spencerville was first in total yards (3,983) gained and rushing yards (3,316) followed by Crestview (3,842 and 3,103) in both categories. On defense, Spencerville was second overall in yards allowed (2,417) and rushing yards allowed (1,030) again followed by Crestview (1,030 and 1,422).
And the teams feature the top rushers in the conference in Spencerville running back Zach Goecke (1,409 yards, 23 TDs) and Crestview quarterback Preston Zaleski (1,368 yards rushing, 19 TDs).
When Spencerville has the ball
The Bearcats love to pound the football with a relentless Wing-T attack that averaged 331.6 yards and 38.6 points per game. Goecke, Andrew Emery (775 yards, 6 TDs) and Trevor McMichael (607 yards, 9 TDs) were three of the top running backs in the NWC.
Quarterback Mason Nourse passed for 667 yards (43-of-76, 7 TDs, 4 INTs.).
Crestview’s defense was solid against the run, allowing 142.2 yards rushing each game and 21.0 points per game.
In their first meeting, Goecke led the Bearcats with 135 yards rushing on 17 carries with a touchdown.
When Crestview has the ball
Zaleski is the heart of the Knights’ attack. The signal-caller not only ran for 1,368 yards and 19 TDs but passed for 739 yards (41-80, 7 TDs, 9 Ints.). Zaleski had 158 yards rushing on 18 carries against Spencerville.
After Zaleski, Crestview has a pretty deep committee of Jake Lippi (476 yards, 79 carries, 7 TDs), Jordan Miller (428/71/6) and Malcolm Oliver (396/56/4). Oliver has missed several games this season, most recently due to injury. Owens said he should play this week but is a game-time decision.
Spencerville’s defense gave up just 241.7 yards per game (103.0 rushing, 138.7 passing) and 17.0 points per game.