Panthers roll up 611
rushing yards in rout
By Tom Williams
Before Saturday’s Division V, Region 19 final, members of the Crestview High School football team were concerned about Akron Manchester’s ability to run the ball down opponents’ throats.
Their concerns weren’t misplaced. Powered by 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back Mason Hayes, the Panthers ran wild, scoring six times in the first half in a 69-21 victory at Minerva High School.
“I was worried about their size and we didn’t help ourselves early on with [turnovers],” Crestview head coach Paul Cusick said. “A good team like that, they are going to take advantage of it.
“We got beat by a better team.”
Manchester (11-2) rushed for 611 yards on 67 carries. Hayes gained 268 of them on 25 carries.
“He’s a big boy, he was pretty hard to bring down,” linebacker Jake Ferris said. “Everyone was hitting him high because we had hit everyone high all season, but he was slippery.”
The Rebels’ potent offense was stifled for most of three quarters.
“They were a great team — hopefully, they win it all,” said quarterback Collin Gilbert, who added that the wintry conditions and snow-dusted field were a factor but not the culprit.
“Not for 69-21,” the senior said. “We just didn’t execute on either side of the ball. It just wasn’t our night tonight.”
Hayes scored four times in the first half, gaining 184 yards. Nearly as devastating was Anthony Miltner who scored the other two first-half touchdowns. The 5-8, 160-pound junior finished with 183 yards on 22 carries, including a 48-yard touchdown right before halftime for a 42-0 lead.
“They are big, strong,” Cusick said. “What they do is not real fancy but it’s real effective. And they did it well.”
Trying for the biggest win in school history, the Rebels (11-2) were in immediate trouble when they committed two first-quarter turnovers.
On their first possession, running back Trevor Cope and Gilbert each ran for a first down. But Gilbert’s first pass was intercepted by Aaron Hoxworth at the Crestview 43. Six plays later, Hayes scored from the 2.
The Rebels’ next possession began with promise when Gilbert scrambled for a 27-yard gain to the Manchester 34.
But on the next play, Cope was unable to secure the handoff and Manchester’s Dakota Craig recovered. Nine plays later, Miltner scored from the 8 for a 14-0 lead.
The Panthers dominated the second quarter, limiting the Rebels to 4 yards of offense. Manchester’s offense contributed four touchdowns, gaining 218 yards on 18 carries.
“They are a powerhouse football team,” Ferris said. “They just hit the holes hard and they opened up [big ones] to get through.
“They got there fast and hard.”
Hayes’ third-longest run covered 46 yards and set up the Panthers’ fourth touchdown. His 48-yard run on the next drive set up his fourth score. His night ended with a 70-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Gilbert rushed for 135 yards and scored two touchdowns. Cope scored the other.
“It was a great season,” Gilbert said. “Coming into it, a lot of people didn’t know how [good] we were going to be. And then losing early to South Range ... we’ve really grown up.
“It’s sad to see it go.”
“The greatest time of my life was playing for Crestview,” Ferris said. “Coach ‘Cue’ has done such a great job with this program.”