COLUMBIANA — Crestview High quarterback Carter Hill couldn’t run or jog — he couldn’t even plant his feet to throw.
But with his team nursing a 20-14 lead over ITCL rival East Palestine in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Division V playoff game, Hill was still able to provide one very important thing — leadership.
After injuring his right knee on a running play in the first half, the junior never carried the ball again, but managed a balanced offensive attack, throwing for 130 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rebels to a 20-14 victory and into the second of the postseason.
“My knee just got twisted around a little bit on that play,” said Hill, who finished with just 34 yards rushing on eight carries. “It’s not too bad and I just had to play through it. It was frustrating because my role is basically as just another running back and I wanted to run.
“But we had to adjust some things and do what was best for the team. It’s the same knee I had surgery on last year when I hurt it against South Range.”
With Crestview’s offense limited by Hill’s injury, Adam Britton and Andrew Mayer were called upon to pick up the slack. They responded with a combined 132 yards and Dakota Norris added a 1-yard touchdown run.
With the East Palestine offense struggling to find momentum early, the Rebels built a 13-0 lead with 5:48 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs didn’t help their cause, turning the ball over twice in the first half. To make matters worse, senior receiver Austin Cope left the stadium on a stretcher in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury.
“I’m not sure of his status, so I don’t want to speculate,” said East Palestine coach Jeff Sharkey. “But I’m proud of our guys and I’m sad because I really enjoyed coaching these 19 seniors.
“Crestview stepped up and made some plays and it’s tough when you don’t have the ball. We just couldn’t convert defensively on third down. This was the kind of game where a play here or there could make a difference.”
East Palestine closed within 13-6 just before intermission, as quarterback Shane Peterson connected with Shane Egresi for a 14-yard scoring toss.
Just when the Bulldogs’ offense started to click, it spent most of the third quarter on the sideline. East Palestine ran just four plays in the period, as Crestview snapped 23 offensive plays.
The Rebels were able to not only control the clock, but a touchdown with 10:47 left in the fourth quarter, put East Palestine in a 20-6 hole.
“It was ugly,” said Crestview coach Paul Cusick. “We knew they were going to come out and be pretty aggressive, but we were able mix the pass with the run a little bit and do just enough to be effective.
“With Carter hurting, we had to have other guys step up and they did. We thought about bringing in Adam Coppock for Carter, but we felt like we needed Carter’s leadership out there. He’s a tough kid and I think he’ll be ready to battle through it next week.”
The Bulldogs made things interesting in the final six minutes, driving 67 yards in just 1:20, as Peterson completed five straight passes and scored on a 17-yard run to get within 20-12. A two-point conversion pass from Egresi to Ryan Dilworth got East Palestine with 20-14.
Crestview’s defense clinched the victory with just 2:30 left, as Norris sacked Peterson for an 11-yard loss on third down and a fourth-down pass was incomplete.