Crestview’s Venice Roberts breaks the tackle of an Ada defender in a game at Ada Friday. The Knights fell to the host Bulldogs 26-21. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
Crestview’s Venice Roberts breaks the tackle of an Ada defender in a game at Ada Friday. The Knights fell to the host Bulldogs 26-21. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
BY Cort Reynolds

Times Bulletin Correspondent

ADA - Ada senior tailback Kellen Decker turned a short screen pass into a 69-yard touchdown with 6:53 left to lift the host Bulldogs to a 26-21 win over upset-minded Crestview in a rain-soaked Northwest Conference battle Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

Both teams proved to be tough mudders by playing in a steady rain and cool temperatures the entire game. The Knights had taken a 21-20 lead when Isiah Simerman made a leaping 38-yard TD grab from a fine Preston Zaleski aerial with 7:18 remaining to play. But on the very next play from scrimmage, Ada quarterback Mason Acheson lofted a short pass to Decker, who grabbed it in stride, broke a few tackles and then sped down the sideline through the puddles and mud to paydirt. The ensuing two-point conversion pass failed to keep the Knights within striking distance, down only five.

Crestview had one last chance to pull off the upset when it took over at its own 30 with 2:19 to go. But on third down Bulldog Micah Roberson intercepted a long pass and returned it deep into Knight territory to stymie their last-ditch effort. Ada then ran out the final 70 seconds to preserve the narrow Homecoming victory.

The hard-fought win kept the third-ranked Bulldogs in contention for a league title at 5-0 and 7-0 overall. The Knights fell to 3-4 overall and 1-4 in the NWC with the difficult defeat.

Crestview scored first after a strange sequence of events. Bulldog Matt Wilcox picked off a Knight pass on the game's first possession and appeared ready to return it all the way to the end zone. He had returned it up the sideline and across the field almost 80 yards to the Crestview five before he fumbled the ball back when switching hands.

The Knights then marched 95 yards to paydirt on a time-consuming drive behind the rugged running of stocky senior Jacob Harmon. He eventually rumbled 15 yards to the Ada four to set up first and goal.

Three plays later on fourth and goal, defensive pass interference in the end zone gave the Knights new life. On second down Zaleski scored on a one-yard keeper to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 2:05 to go in the opening stanza. Crestview thus earned the honor of handing Ada its first deficit of the season

Yet the quick-strike Bulldogs tied it on a 34-yard TD pass from Acheson to Roberson on a crossing route with 10:31 to go in the half.

Crestview responded with a 66-yard scoring march. On fourth and three at the Ada 29, Zaleski faked a pitch, spun to his left and connected with Harmon along the sideline, who then scampered 29 yards to the end zone on the wet turf for a 14-7 lead with 7:09 to go in the first half.

Ada came right back with a 70-yard scoring drive of its own. On fourth and 12, they kept the chains moving on a 12-yard pass from Acheson to Wilcox. Then on fourth and eight at the 15, Brenden Szippl snared an Acheson aerial at the two on the sideline and scurried into tie it with 4:02 left before the break.

Seth Moser intercepted an Acheson pass shortly before intermission to thwart the next Ada possession.

The Bulldogs fumbled early in half two, giving the Knights a golden opportunity to take the lead. But they couldn't capitalize.

From inside the Ada 10, Zaleski threw to the back of the end zone, where Roberson made a diving interception.

The defenses came up big in the third quarter as the rain continued to fall steadily on the cool , brisk night. The Knights made a costly turnover early in the fourth period when they fumbled deep in their own territory. Ada took over at the Crestview seven and Decker powered in from seven yards to put the purple and gold on top 20-14 with 9:24 to go. But after a false start penalty, the Bulldogs hooked the PAT kick wide when the kicker slipped on the increasingly slippery field.

The Knights then raced 80 yards to take the lead back, albeit briefly. Zaleski hooked up with the speedy Simerman for a long catch and carry into Ada territory, with Jacob Ansley temporarily saving a TD with a diving shoestring tackle. But then Simerman got behind the defense and hauled in a fine toss into the rain and wind by Zaleski for the 38-yard TD. Kameron Grubaugh's third straight successful extra point boot gave Crestview its final lead 21-20 amid thoughts of an upset before Decker made his elusive 69-yard winning TD catch and carry.

Ada has outscored its opposition 310-75 this season.