COLUMBIANA — All Crestview High football coach Paul Cusick wanted for his 41st birthday was a win Friday night against Springfield.
His team gave him that and a little more.
The Rebels rebounded from last week’s loss to Mineral Ridge by taking advantage of Springfield’s two first-half turnovers, building a 21-0 halftime lead en route to a 31-14 victory.
The win clinched the outright ITCL Tier One championship and a first-round home playoff game for Cusick and his squad.
“I told the kids all I wanted for my birthday was for them to play with passion and get a win tonight,” said Cusick. “We played flat that week, but tonight we came out with more emotion and beat a quality Springfield team.
“You can’t underestimate winning a league title — especially as sole champions. These kids were written off early with what we lost to graduation, but we told them if they believed in themselves, good things would happen — and they did.”
The title was Crestview’s second straight, but first outright after sharing the crown with rival South Range in 2008.
The Rebels’ offense had too much firepower for the Tigers — and it wasn’t just the Carter Hill show.
Hill did complete 11-of-15 passes for 130 yards and added 83 yards rushing on 17 attempts. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
But the junior had plenty of help in the ground game. Andrew Mayer led Crestview with 103 yards on 15 attempts. Senior Adam Britton added 61 yards on three carries, including a 3-yard touchdown in the first half.
“I just tried to run hard and do the best I could tonight,” said Mayer. “We played with a lot more passion and intensity tonight than last week and we came out on top. It’s amazing to win a league title and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. It’s a great time to be a Crestview Rebel.”
Springfield controlled the clock in the first quarter, moving the football with the running of Jim Zubick and the passing of Brad Ferraro. But the long possessions were foiled by penalties and turnovers.
The Tigers fumbled the ball away on its opening possession after overcoming a holding penalty to drive to the Crestview 32.
The Rebels got on the board first with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, driving 76 yards in 11 plays. Mayer carried the ball four times for 29 yards during the series, which resulted in a 5-yard TD pass from Hill to Tristan Reynolds.
Crestview added two more scores on back-to-back possessions to seize a 21-0 lead at halftime. The third TD — a 31-yard pass from Hill to Adam Coppock — came after a Springfield interception.
The Tigers, behind a solid game from Ferraro, rallied in the third quarter, closing the gap to 21-7 with an 8-yard pass from Ferraro to Zubick .
After another Crestview score, Springfield got to within two scores again (28-14) with 9:05 left in the game when backup quarterback Nick Russell tossed a 17-yard TD to Zubick in the corner of the end zone.