Times Bulletin photo
Crestview’s quarterback Stephen Semer delivers a pass during the Knights’ game with LCC on Friday, September 4, in Convoy.
Times Bulletin photo Crestview’s quarterback Stephen Semer delivers a pass during the Knights’ game with LCC on Friday, September 4, in Convoy.
BY DREW BITTNER

Times Bulletin Sports Editor

sports@timesbulletin.com

CONVOY - A cool and comfortable summer evening provided the perfect setting for the Northwest Conference battle between Crestview and Lima Central Catholic on Friday in Convoy.

Unfortunately for the Crestview faithful, the outcome of the game was anything but perfect, as the hometown Knights fell to the visiting Thunderbirds, 35-0.

LCC jumped on the scoreboard early, reaching paydirt on their first possession after forcing a Crestview punt. The T-Birds lived up to the 'Thunder' portion of their moniker, solely using their running game to pound the football up the field for a score. Junior running back Taylor Royster capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run up the gut. Tyler O'Connor, the LCC quarterback who also handles kicking duties, missed the extra point and the Thunderbirds took an early 6-0 advantage with 5:01 left in the first quarter.

Crestview moved the ball well through the air on the ensuing possession, surprisingly utilizing a four-wide spread formation for most of the game.

However, the Knights couldn't convert a fourth-and-goal from 11 yards out - on a play where LCC's defensive back Desi Kirkman clearly got away with pass interference - and Crestview turned the ball over on downs.

LCC's Royster coughed up the football on the second play of the following drive, and Crestview pounced on the ball, giving the Knights possession inside the LCC 20-yard line. Again, though, the Knights would fail to convert a fourth down attempt and waste another opportunity to close the gap.

The Thunderbirds' offense was unable to capitalize, however, as the Knights defense forced a punt. Fortunately for LCC, O'Connor booted a perfect punt that was downed by the Thunderbirds at the Crestview one-yard line.

This would prove costly for the Knights in the following series, as sophomore back Matt Holden took a handoff at the goal line, met the defense immediately, and then seemingly attempted to pitch the ball blindly behind him. Quarterback Stephen Semer fell on the football, but did so in the endzone for a safety, giving LCC an 8-0 lead with 3:19 left in the half.

It was another miscue that would come back to haunt Crestview because a few plays later, O'Connor found Kirkman on a wide receiver screen play, and the Thunderbirds wideout took the catch 24 yards for another LCC touchdown. A two-point attempt was no good, but LCC still had the 14-0 lead, which they took into the break at halftime.

The Thunderbirds opened the second half much like they had started the first, using a bruising rushing attack to drive quickly down the field. The series was highlighted by a 44-yard run by Royster, who bowled over several Knights players on the scamper. Senior running back Taylor Cook finished off the drive with a five-yard scoring run, and point after attempt was good, giving LCC a 21-0 advantage at the 10:00 mark.

At this point, the wheels started to come off for Crestview. Semer was intercepted on the following drive by Bubba Kreig, who returned the pick inside the Knights' 30.

LCC converted the turnover into points once again, as O'Connor found Rufus Johnson for a 15-yard touchdown strike. O'Connor drilled the extra point kick and LCC led 28-0 with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter.

After the teams traded punts, Semer was again picked off, this time by LCC senior Percy Johnson. And again, LCC made Crestview pay, as the Thunderbirds constantly fed junior back Cody McCullough on the ensuing possession. McCullough racked up 22 yards on four carries on the drive, scoring on a short six-yard run with 7:18 left to play in regulation. Another successful point after by O'Connor put the Thunderbirds on top, 35-0.

Both teams would play backups for the majority of the time remaining, and the score remained at 35-0 until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Despite the loss, Crestview's head coach Jason Cross took away some positives from the contest.

"LCC's a great football team," Cross said. "I thought we played good football for two quarters, but we had a few mistakes in the first half that hurt us."

"We did what we wanted to do in the first half," continued Cross. "We ate up the clock and put ourselves in a position to score. That's exactly what we did in the first half. I think we got tired in the second half, but I give credit to them (LCC). That's a great LCC football team. We had nothing really to hold our heads about."

Semer finished 7 of 23 passing for 68 yards and two interceptions. The quarterback was also the leading rusher for Crestview with 55 yards on 20 carries. Drew Nofer paced the Knights in receiving with two catches for 29 yards, while Noah Gebert added 24 yards on two catches of his own.

For the Thunderbirds, O'Connor finished the evening six of ten passing for 83 yards and two scores. Royster was the game's leading rusher, turning 12 carries into 116 yards and one touchdown. Desi Kirkman caught two passes for 38 yards and a score for LCC.

With the loss, Crestview falls to 1-1 on the season and 0-1 in NWC play. On the flip side, LCC improves their record to 1-1 and 1-0 in conference action.

The Knights will next travel to Wayne Trace on September 11, for a non-conference battle with the Raiders.