MINERVA-Everyone in the stands and on the Crestview sidelines knew exactly what was coming from Akron Manchester. It didn't matter one bit.
Using an attack that would make Woody Hayes proud, the Panthers ruthlessly ground away at the Rebel defense to he tune of 646 rushing yards in a dominating 69-21 win in the Div. V, Region 15 championship Saturday at frozen Hines Stadium.
The Panthers (11-2) claim the second regional title in school history. They will face Colmbus Bishop Hartley (12-1) in a state semifinal Saturday at a site to be determined. Crestview (11-2) finishes on the doorstep of a regional title for the second time in three years.
"They're a great team," Crestview quarterback Collin Gilbert said. "We knew that coming in. They have great players, a great coach and a great program. Sometimes you just run into a better team, and the better team won tonight."
With the air brutally cold and snow whipping through the air, the Panthers did not throw a single pass all night and rarely even split a receiver out wide. Play after play, Manchester lined up with seven men at the line of scrimmage, a full house backfield and pounded away.
Backup running back Mason Hayes-filling in for leading rusher Austin Klein who was out with an injury-led the way with 322 yards on 26 carries and five touchdowns. Anthony Miltner-who did not see serious action until last week-ran for 189 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. The Panthers easily scored on all of their first half possessions en route to a 42-0 halftime lead.
"I knew they were going to run that stuff and I was worried about it. I was worried about their size," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "They are big and strong. It's not fancy, but it's effective and they did it very well."
Very early on, things looked promising for the Rebels. After receiving the opening kick, Gilbert and running back Trevor Cope each ripped of good runs. However, after a Gilbert interception in Manchester territory, the Panthers quickly took advantage, barging down the field for the first touchdown mostly behind Hayes. After another long Gilbert run on the ensuing drive, Manchester recovered a fumble and quickly scored again, ripping off big chunks of yardage to establish a quick 14-0 lead.
"Those two turnover hurt," Cusick said. "Against a good team you can't do that. They took full advantage."
From there the rest of the first half went like clockwork. Crestview went three-and-out, punted the ball, and Manchester took over for another punishing drive. The 6-foot-2 220 pound Hayes was especially tough to bring down on the frigid night. When the Panthers chose to change things up, the speedy Miltner had no trouble finding room on the outside. Manchester faced just two third downs in the first half, with the longest being a third-and-2.
"They were big and strong and their execution was outstanding," Crestview linebacker Jake Ferris said. "They did all the little things right. Everyone got to where they needed to be and they get there fast and hard. Hayes was a real big kid and hard to bring down. He was also slippery for how big he was. He broke all our tackles."
Gilbert led the Rebels with 141 yards rushing on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Trevor Cope had 69 yards on 14 carries. The vast majority of that yardage came in the second half. For most of the game, the Rebels high-powered attack was completely shut down. Whenever Gilbert would drop back or try and run, a black shirt seemed to be immediately in his face.
"They didn't do anything that surprised us on defense," Gilbert said. "They just had a lot of strong athletes. They just beat us."
At halftime, Cusick urged his team not to quit and they responded by playing hard until the end. It was the final game for a senior class that inherited a strong program and helped enhance it, going 22-3 over the last two years.
"I've played since third grade with these guys," Gilbert said. "We've really grown up together. I'm proud of all that we did and just really sad to see it go."
"I'm going to remember the brotherhood we had and all the memories we created together," Ferris said. "This is such a great program and coach Cusick has done a great job. We had a lot of great times together."
This marked Crestview's worst loss since a 56-0 beating by South Range on Aug. 31, 2001.
The players came out for warmups to find the field glazed with a thin layer of snow and ice. The game itself was played in bitter conditions, with the temperature in the low 20s and the wind chill in single digits. During the second quarter, the water on the Crestview sidelines froze. Both bands put on halftime shows using only their drum majors.
"The conditions effected our offense a little bit," Gilbert said. "But not enough to really change the score that much."
Manchester's total of 646 rushing yards unofficially is the seventh highest single-game total in state history according to the OHSAA's website. Ironically it surpassed Minerva's 635 yard effort against Canton South in 1998.
Crestview sold 550 presale tickets for the game.
M-Mason Hayes 3 run (Matt Eidom kick)
M-Anthony Miltner 8 run (Eidom kick)
M-Mason Hayes 1 run (Bobby Bowen run)
M-Mason Hayes 3 run (Eidom kick)
M-Mason Hayes 2 run (kick failed)
M-Anthony Miltner 48 run (Eidom kick)
M-Mason Hayes 70 run (Eidom kick)
C-Collin Gilbert 25 run (Caleb McGath kick)
M-Dan Leemaster 38 run (Eidom kick)
M-Dan Leemaster 4 run (Eidom kick)
C-Trevor Cope 10 run (McGath kick)
M-Dan Leemaster 27 run (Eidom kick)
C-Collin Gilbert 2 run (McGath kick)
First downs 1631
Total Yards 261608
RUSHING-Crestview, Collin Gilbert 23-141, Trevor Cope 13-78; Manchester, Mason Hayes 24-322, Anthony Miltner 15-189, Dan Leemaster 8-83, Johnny Beavers 12-50.
PASSING-Crestview, Collin Gilbert 4-13-55-2; Manchester, Pavin Parks 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING- Crestview, Josh McDade 2-23, Jesse Best 1-30.
INTERCEPTIONS-Manchester, Aaron Hoxworth, Drew Brasiel.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Manchester, Dakota Craig.