HARROD — The defensive units set the tone in Friday’s key Northwest Conference football matchup between Allen East and visiting Crestview.
Both teams repeatedly came up with huge defensive stops.
By the halftime break, Crestview was clinging to a 7-0 lead at Bill Goodwin Field.
In the second half, Allen East managed to get its offense going as it took the lead and held on for a thrilling 20-14 victory over Crestview.
Coming into Friday, Allen East, Spencerville and Columbus Grove had just one conference loss on the season. Crestview came in with two NWC losses.
With the win, Allen East improves to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the NWC. Crestview slips to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play.
“I thought we had a pretty good game plan, but they still got some things,” Allen East head coach Wesley Schroeder said. “(Crestview head) Coach (Jared) Owens put them in position, which made it hard for us. I thought we did a good job, but they held us to zero in the first half. But, you’re out here to win, and we’re pretty happy.”
Friday night, both Crestview and Allen East went three-and-out in their first two possessions of the game.
On Crestview’s second possession, the Knights got good field position, starting on Allen East’s 41-yard line.
However, the Mustangs held the Knights and forced them to punt.
The game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter.
Crestview finally extended a drive.
Late in the first quarter and into the second quarter, the Knights mounted a 14-play drive. However, Allen East stuffed the Crestview offense in the red zone and took over on downs.
Late in the first half, Allen East came up with a huge defensive stand as it kept the Knights out of the end zone after Crestview drove all the way down to Allen East’s 2-yard line.
However, Allen East gave the ball right back to the Knights on a fumble, just a few plays later on its ensuing possession.
Crestview now had the football at Allen East’s 11-yard line with 12 seconds left in the half.
This time, the Knights cashed in.
A few plays later, Brody Brecht, a 5-10, 205-pound running back, jumped over into the end zone from a yard out. With the extra point by Kaden Kreischer, Crestview went into the break with the 7-point lead.
Crestview’s defense was stellar. The Knights held the Mustangs to just 65 total yards in the first half.
In the first half, Crestview quarterback Kaden Short rushed for 52 yards on 12 carries. For the game, Short rushed for 88 yards on 18 carries.
Brecht, who came into Friday’s contest leading the NWC in rushing with 1,271 yards (eight yards per carry), rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries. On the night, he ended with 91 yards on 27 touches.
Allen East entered the contest, leading the conference with the least total offensive yards allowed with 1,738 (217.3 per game).
Allen East’s offense made a statement to start the second half.
The Mustangs opened the third quarter with an 8-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Bryce Belcher connected with Garrett Neth, coming out of the backfield, for a 15-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good. Crestview led 7-6, with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
On Crestview’s ensuing possession, it mounted a 14-play drive, but eventually turned it over on downs.
The Knights’ one-point lead held up to the end of the third quarter.
Allen East came right back with a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 1-yard TD run by Cole Fletcher. With a successful two-point conversion the Mustangs claimed a 14-7 lead, with 8:04 left to play in regulation.
Allen East came up with yet another defensive gem.
With 5:56 left to play, Allen East’s Logan McCluer intercepted a pass from Short, which gave Allen East the ball on Crestview’s 43-yard line.
The Mustangs capitalized.
It took just five plays for Allen East to hit pay dirt. Neth went in from two yards out to give the Mustangs a 20-7 lead, with 3:44 left to play.
On the night, Neth rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries.
Crestview added a score with a little more than two minutes to play, when Jayden Ward came in to play quarterback. Ward found Short open for an 18-yard scoring strike. Short moved over to a receiver spot on the final couple plays of the scoring drive.
“We’ve never been in games of this magnitude before,” an elated Schroeder said. “Our seniors really stepped up.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.