Crestview’s Preston Zaleski gains ground in the Knights’ Homecoming win over Ada. The Knights battle former conference rival LCC in Friday night’s playoff opener. (Times Bulletin file photo)
Crestview’s Preston Zaleski gains ground in the Knights’ Homecoming win over Ada. The Knights battle former conference rival LCC in Friday night’s playoff opener. (Times Bulletin file photo)
By Sean LaFontaine

Times Bulletin Correspondent

CONVOY - The Crestview Knights ended their regular season last week with a 41-7 victory over the Paulding Panthers. The victory improved the Knights to 8-2 on the season, clinched a share of the Northwest Conference and clinched a Division VI playoff berth as well.

Aside from the accomplishments achieved during last week's game, the most important outcome may have been the fact that the Knights are getting healthy again as they head into the post-season.

"We are pretty close to 100 percent healthy. We have a couple typical bumps and bruises here and there, but we are probably healthier than we were two or three weeks ago," said Crestview coach Jared Owens. "From a practice standpoint, we had one of our most physical practices of the year today. We didn't even have to coach them that hard, they just went out and did their jobs and that's great to see."

As with most small towns, the Convoy community has given great support to their football team throughout the season, and Owens talked about the overflow of well wishes he has received over the past week.

"The excitement, the support, the pats on the backs and the well-wishes are coming in by the bushel right now and our kids are feeling good about that, but they understand they have to stay focused as well. Growing up here and knowing people's love for their Crestview Knights around here, I'm just proud to put a product on the football field that they can be excited about and proud of."

The Crestview Knights will enter into both familiar and unfamiliar territory this weekend.

The Knights return to the state tournament for just the second time in the programs short history, the last time being in 2005, but the trip Friday night won't be a totally new experience because Crestview will return to Lima Stadium to take the former NWC foe, the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds.
LCC enters Friday night 8-2 on the season, including an early season loss to Pleasant 20-14, and a loss to the Delphos Jefferson Wildcats, 35-19. Crestview comes into the contest on a four-game win streak, while the T-birds enter with a five-game streak of their own.

"They have tons of speed, tons of speed and they like to attack the edge," said Owens. "They have a lot of experience at one of their wing backs. Their quarterback is composed, a great leader and a big time playmaker. On third and fourth downs when they need a play, they put the ball in his hands."

Owens went on to talk about what his team will need to do in order come out victorious Friday night.

"I think they pose some challenges to us, but I feel like the game is going to be physical and hard hitting and I think we have a few athletes, too, that can hopefully compete with them and their speed. I hope we can possess the ball long enough and sustain drives well enough to be in this thing until the end."

Because of the speed that LCC presents, Owens addressed the keys to his teams defense if they want to contain that speed come Friday.

"It's one of those where you can't relax for a play because once you relax there can be a 60 or 70-yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. You have to give great effort every play and I think our guys understand that. If they are tired, we have enough depth to give them a break and get them back in."

"Being disciplined and knowing our assignments and doing our job every play will be key. Sometimes they are most dangers when they extend plays and scramble, so we can't let up. We have to stay in coverage, get after the quarterback, play physical and hard-nosed."

Kickoff for Friday night's game will be at 7:30 in Lima Stadium.