Preston Zaleski prepares to hand the ball off to Jake Lippi in Crestview’s 62-19 win over Allen East on Friday. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
Preston Zaleski prepares to hand the ball off to Jake Lippi in Crestview’s 62-19 win over Allen East on Friday. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)

By John Parent

Times Bulletin Sports Editor

sports@timesbulletin.com

CONVOY - The Allen East Mustangs came into Crestview Stadium having allowed over 700 rushing yards in their previous two games. Facing the vaunted ground attack of the host Crestview Knights was a recipie for disaster, and it didn't take long to get out of hand.

The Knights led 42-7 at halftime and crusied to a 62-19 final over the Mustangs in Northwest Conference play on Friday.

Though Allen East moved out to an early 7-0 lead on a Ross Stewart touchdown run with 3:01 to go in the opening quarter, Crestview stormed back and got running back Malcolm Oliver involved in the action for the first time. Oliver ripped off runs of eight, 13 and 10 yards on consecutive plays to tie the score at 7-7 with just seconds left in the first quarter.

That was when the Crestview defense stepped up and began to put the strangle hold on the Allen East attack.

On the very first play from scrimmage following the Oliver score, the Mustangs fumbled and Crestview immediately jumped on the ball to take possession at the Allen East 24 yard line. Four plays later, junior quarterback Preston Zaleski scampered in from 15 yards out on an option keeper to give Crestview their first lead of the game at 14-7.

After a three-and-out, Zaleski was at it again, running the option to the left side and keeping the ball once more. This time he busted through the first line of defense and found himself in a foot race up the sideline. Zaleski out ran the Mustang defenders and took it in from 73 yards away with 9:31 to go in the half and just that quickly, the game was 21-7.

"Preston is starting to think like I am on the field and that's scary," commented Crestview head coach Jared Owens. "Anytime you can get to that point in with your quarterback and he still has games to play, that's huge."

If there was any doubt about the outcome, it was erased on the next Alle East possession, when the Mustangs laid it on the ground for the second time and Crestview came away with another turnover. Oliver was the workhorse on this drive, carrying the ball three times in four Crestview snaps and racking up 39 yards of gains including his second touchdown of the half, a four yard burst.

"The turnovers were huge," noted Owens. "That's something we've been practicing, is not just causing fumbled but making sure we get on top of them. It kind of took the wind out of their sails.

Another Mustand possession wound up with more points for Crestview. With 2:32 to go in the half and in the midst of a drive that had seen the Mustangs pick up a pair of first downs, quarterback Tanner Stippich fired a pass down the right sideline but instead of his intended target, the ball found the arms of Crestview's Isaiah Simerman, who immediately turned up-field and was gone before the Mustangs could react. The touchdown went as a 61-yard interception return.

With less than a minute to go in the half and leading 35-7, Crestview opted to use their hurry-up offense and Zaleski ran it to perfection, finding Oliver, who had lined up in the slot, with passes that led to gains of 17 yards and 37 yards to get the ball inside the Mustang 10 yard line. From there, Oliver found pay dirt once again, scoring on a seven yard run off right tackle.

"That's something that we work on every week in practice and that's probably the first time we really had to use it," Owens explined. "The score was not really close at that point, but we felt that if we got another score before the half we could really, mentally, gain an advantage."

The game was decided by halftime, and Oliver, who finished with 63 receiving yards and 77 rushing yards, didn't see the field in the second half with Zaleski playing just two series. The second of those drives ate up nearly the entire third quarter and bled into the fourth before Jake Lippi scored what should be considered the final points of the varsity contest.

The Fourth stanza saw touchdown runs of 35 and 70 yards by reserve Mustang running backs Brent Wilson and Johnny Brinkman while the Knights got a touchdown run by Zion Zawko and a kickoff return for a score just as time expired.

At halftime, Crestview had racked up better than 225 yards of offense with nearly 200 of those coming on the ground. Allen East was held to 90 yards in the half with Stewart accounting for 65 of those himself.

The Knights move to 4-1 on the season and stay unbeaten in conference play. Allen East falls to 2-3 and 0-3 in the NWC.