On the final play of a Division VII, Region 28 semifinal on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at Lima’s Spartan Stadium, Crestview senior Grant Schlagbaum (7) and junior Wade Sheets (3) each made contact with a last-second pass to the end zone, but the ball fell incomplete. Minster advanced with a 35-32 victory. (DHI Media/Tina Eley)
On the final play of a Division VII, Region 28 semifinal on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at Lima’s Spartan Stadium, Crestview senior Grant Schlagbaum (7) and junior Wade Sheets (3) each made contact with a last-second pass to the end zone, but the ball fell incomplete. Minster advanced with a 35-32 victory. (DHI Media/Tina Eley)
LIMA — Lima’s Spartan Stadium was the site of Crestview’s first-ever playoff victory. In each of the past two years, it is where the Knights suffered a heartbreaking playoff defeat. A final-play heave to the end zone on Friday night fell incomplete for Crestview, eliminating the Knights in the Division VII regional semifinals. Minster came away with a 35-32 win.

Crestview, which had led by as many as 13 early in the third quarter, found itself down by a field goal after Minster quarterback Jared Huelsman banged his way into the end zone from six yards out, then ran in the 2-point conversion for a 3-point Wildcat edge.

Crestview had 1:33 left to traverse 71 yards after Charles Stefanek returned the Minster kickoff to the Knight 29. The Crestview drive started slowly, but junior quarterback Drew Kline scrambled for nine yards on a 3rd-and-5 to move the sticks, then, after a pair of short gains, found classmate Wade Sheets for a 26-yard connection to get the ball to the Minster 22. After a spike to stop the clock with 11 seconds, Kline was on the run for a 15-yard gain to the Minster 7 with only three seconds to go, setting up a do-or-die final snap. Kline dropped back and bought himself some time by drifting away from the Wildcat rushers, but his desperation heave (from beyond the 25 yard line) to a group of offensive and defense players in the corner of the end zone glanced off the hands of two Crestview receivers and fell harmlessly to the Spartan Stadium turf, ending the game.

“This was two teams battling hard,” Crestview head coach Jared Owens said. “What they do defensively, this was definitely the best team we’ve seen this year on that side of the ball…. We put ourselves in position; we just ran out of time.”

Minster didn’t take its first lead until midway through the final period. After a 14-play Crestview drive ended with a turnover on downs, Minster used nine plays to move 61 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 34-yard connection from Huelsman to Lehmkuhl to set up a 1st-and-goal. Huelsman then found Lehmkuhl on a crossing pattern in the end zone for a 27-26 Wildcat lead with 6:28 to play in the game.

Led by Kline, the Knights answered. The junior lofted a pass deep down the sideline to Stefanek, and the senior was able to make what was ruled a catch when he and the defender, Minster’s Austin Brown, held simultaneous possession to the ground. That play got the Knights moving, and Kline ran for 15 yards to gain another first down. Kline then capped the drive with an electrifying 25-yard scoring run where he started to the right and wound up cutting all the way back across the field for an eventual score. The 2-point try was no good, but Crestview led 32-27.

The scoring run was part of Kline’s 233 rushing yards on the day.

“The kids battled their guts out; we played physical. We were able to match their physical presence, and in a lot of ways we were the more physical team,” Owens said.

There was 3:59 left in the game, but Minster needed just over half that amont of time.

Huelsman broke free for a 30-yard run to begin the Minster drive, part of his 144-yard effort on the ground. Huelsman finished a 6-play drive that chewed up just 2:20 from the game clock with his third rushing touchdown of the game. He also threw for 211 yards with two touchdowns through the air.

“They’ve got a playmaker on offense; that quarterback is a special kid,” Owens said. “He made enough plays to beat us tonight.”

Crestview held a 13-6 lead at halftime, but the second half was nothing close to the defensive struggle witnessed before the break. It took Minster all of 1:20 and exactly three plays to erase the halftime deficit, with Huelsman hitting Lehmkuhl for a 45-yard touchdown pass deep down the middle of the field. That possession set the tone for a wild second half.

The Knights answered with a quick strike, as Kline turned in an awe-inspiring 55-yard scoring run. Dylan Hicks added the point after and Crestview was again on top at 20-13. The Knights then added on when Stefanek stepped in front of a Huelsman pass and returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown, making it 26-13.

Huelsman brought his team back with a 12-yard scoring run to get within one score.

Kline went over 1,000 rushing yards on the season in the loss, and Sheets eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. That duo hooked up on Crestview’s first score of the game, a 13-yard pass that Sheets leaped for in the corner of the end zone. Kline’s second scoring strike of the first half was a 3-yard strike to a wide-open Stefanek in the left side of the end zone after Kline had rolled out to the right.