There’s no denying that Crestview had extra motivation for last week’s opening-round playoff game against Liberty.
Just as they had in Week 3, the Rebels of the Inter Tri-County League Tier One hosted Liberty of the All-American Conference National Division in the Division V playoffs.
Despite winning five straight conference crowns, the Rebels felt like underdogs — and they used that for inspiration.
“ITCL always gets looked down on, I think,” said Rebels quarterback Collin Gilbert, the league’s top player this season. “The bigger leagues don’t really think much of the ITCL.
“[We] hear [we don’t] have many good teams, we don’t deserve what we play for. We hear that all the time about the ITCL not being a great league.”
Of the nine Mahoning Valley teams still alive in the postseason, four (Crestview, South Range, Western Reserve and Wellsville) are from the ITCL. The AAC has Poland, Hubbard and Struthers while Austintown Fitch and Cardinal Mooney are independents.
Gilbert understands that the ACC schools are bigger and why respect is hard to come by.
“We took that to heart [in] the first game,” Gilbert said. “[We felt] they didn’t respect us.”
Rebels tight end Josh McDade agreed that the Rebels were inspired.
“They might not respect us as much as they should,” McDade said before the playoff game. “The ITCL does get looked down on a little bit.”
In September, Crestview defeated Liberty, 34-26. The rematch followed the same script as the Rebels jumped out to a huge lead, then shook off the Leopards’ fourth-quarter rally for a 35-26 victory.
In the first quarter, Liberty’s coaches made some enthusiastic suggestions to help the officiating crew, even earning a sideline warning. It’s possible that late in the game, the officials had tuned out.
Trailing by 17 points, the Leopards were deep in Rebels’ territory when the coaches claimed there were 12 defenders on the field. They made the same comments after the next play, and the next. As the linesman conferred with head coach Kevin Cylar, three Rebels ran off the field and two substitutes came on as the Crestview fans roared.
The outcome wasn’t affected — Lynn Bowden went on to score on a 1-yard run and Crestview recovered the onside kick.
Maybe it was so noisy that the officials couldn’t hear the coaches.
Maybe Liberty had called out too often.
We’ll never know.
The win was a big moment for the Rebels (10-1), whose only setback came in Week 4 when South Range defeated Crestview, 49-35. The Raiders (11-0) swept their ITCL schedule for the league crown.
Still need a reason to respect Crestview? Try this. Gilbert admitted that not winning another title was disappointing, espcially as a senior.
“We always have our goals,” the quarterback said. “One was to win the league and another was to make the playoffs.
“If we wanted anyone else to have [the title], it would be [South Range] — great players, Coach [Dan] Yeagley is a great coach.”
If we gave out an award for class act, Gilbert would be a major contender.
Crestview meets Gilmour Academy on Saturday night at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.