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Crestview cruises past Newton Falls

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Newton Falls’ Camryn Brainard runs for a 48-yard touchdown Friday night agianst Crestview. He totalted 71 yards on 11 carries during the 48-20 loss.

NEWTON FALLS — It is difficult to pull out a victory when you never force your opponent to punt one time during a game.

But that didn’t prevent Newton Falls from giving it a try Friday night when Crestview came calling. In the end, the Rebels pulled away to beat the Tigers 48-20 in a score that didn’t reflect the game for most of three quarters.

“We did what we could and played with them for three quarters, but it obviously takes a complete game to beat a team that is that offensively talented,” said Newton Falls coach Greg Lazzari, whose squad surrendered 474 total yards and finished 3-7 overall. “We had a nice win last week (29-22 over Campbell Memorial) to give ourselves a chance and we had hope and momentum until the end of the third quarter when a penalty really changed the direction of the game.”

Newton Falls trailed 28-17 late in the third quarter and drove from its own 35-yard line to the Crestview 8 where it faced third-and-1. After Carter Rapczak was stopped short, the Tigers took a timeout and decided to go for it on fourth down. But an illegal motion penalty made it fourth-and-6.

So the Tigers attempted a field goal and Jacob Sipka’s 30-yard try was just wide left. In a similar situation late in the first half, Newton Falls reached the Crestview 10, but had to settle for Sipka’s 27-yard field goal with six seconds left before intermission.

“We stalled out a few times there with a couple of unexecuted plays (in the first half) and then the penalty was a drive-killer (in the third quarter),” Lazzari said. “That was a huge turnaround; you could just feel it.

“… It was just a gut punch. Who knows, if we punch it in there without that penalty, what may have happened?”

Instead, Crestview covered 80 yards in the next five plays to take a 35-17 lead on a 5-yard scoring run by Roclen Bettura, who rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught a 20-yard scoring pass from quarterback Anthony Cusick, who was 20-for-25 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

The Rebels, who reached a Division VI regional semifinal last season before losing to South Range 45-29, pretty much locked down a playoff berth last week when they defeated Champion 44-38 in overtime.

They entered the regular-season finale 11th in the region, as the top 16 in each region punched their playoff passes.

But the Tigers needed to win Friday night to earn their first playoff berth since 2002. Sure Newton Falls had a playoff game last season – a 48-0 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas – but every team was eligible to compete due to a changed format because of COVID-19.

Quarterback spread the wealth out nearly equally between receivers Dominic Yerkey (6 receptions, 74 yards), Kirkland Miller (5-64) and Zander Witherow (5-74), as well as Bettura (3-57).

“We’re pretty happy with that production, but there were a couple of times that we didn’t put points on the board when we failed to finish drives into the red zone,” said Crestview coach Paul Cusick, the quarterback’s father. “We had a few turnovers and got stopped on downs at the 1-yard line and those are things we’ve got to clean up.

“We went up 14-0, but (Newton Falls) came right back and tied it up. They’re very gritty and we knew they wouldn’t give up. They needed a win to get into the playoffs and they really battled. We were in a tight game until late in the third quarter there.”

Newton Falls tied the game at 14 on a 29-yard scoring run from Camryn Brainard and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Alex Pennington to Nick Rapczak, but got just two Sipka field goals the remainder of the game.

Pennington was 9-for-24 passing for 178 yards with a pair of interceptions. Nick Rapczak had five receptions for 100 yards and added 20 yards rushing on three runs. Caden Short had four grabs for 78 yards.

On the ground, Brainard totaled 71 yards on 11 handoffs and Carter Rapczak had 45 yards on 16 rushes.

“We had just six seniors, so we’re expecting the young guys who gained experience this season to come back hungrier and ready to go next year,” Lazzari said. “But I’m proud of all of the kids. They battled to the end and they know how close they were to making the playoffs.”

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