NEW WATERFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Springfield Tigers clinched at the very least a share of the final ITCL Red Tier crown courtesy of a nail-biting 21-19 victory over Crestview. The Tigers improve to 7-2 on the season, 3-0 in the ITCL with a final league game at United next Friday.
“First time Springfield can win the league outright since 2000,” Tigers senior running back Frank Centofanti said of the importance of the victory. “It’s a huge win. We got one more (game).”
“For us it’s big,” Tigers coach Sean Guerriero remarked. “Our league is so challenging week after week. I think just for us to be put into a situation to win out is big. It’s great for our kids.”
But the victory did not come easy as the Rebels had an opportunity to send the game into overtime in the final seconds of the contest. With the Tigers leading 21-13 with 2:26 remaining, the Rebels came up with a defensive stand and forced the Tigers to punt from their own 46. The punt was shanked out of bounds for only a 6-yard net, setting the Rebels up at their own 48 with 30 seconds remaining.
The Rebels took advantage of the situation as quarterback Caleb Hill completed three passes, including a 33-yard catch and run by Dylan Huff to score with 17 seconds remaining. With the chance to tie the contest with a two point conversion Hill dropped back to pass but had his aerial sail wide of his intended target, sealing the game for the Tigers.
“We just liked the matchup. We thought we could get a one on one match up. We just didn’t execute it. So that’s what happens,” Rebels Coach Paul Cusick explained of the failed pass attempt.
The Tigers overcame a 13-0 deficit at halftime as they committed two fumbles and only accounted to 35 total yards. The Rebels even turned the ball over on downs twice in the first half, once at the Tigers 30 and a second time at the 14.
“I wasn’t frustrated at halftime. I just thought we played a great first half and then we kind of had some mistakes that cost us in the second half with special teams fumbles and turnovers. You can’t do that when your playing good football teams,” Cusick remarked.
The Rebels scored on a 1-yard dive by Andrew Yanssens at the 10:21 mark of the second quarter, and Rebels quarterback Caleb Hill hit Stephen Barr on a 14-yard pass with 1:40 remaining in the half to build that lead.
“We were just kind of down on ourselves and we got ourselves in the situation where we just didn’t give ourselves a chance offensively with some turnovers,” Tigers coach Sean Guerriero said.
“People were getting down, our coaches said that we have come back from deficits before and we knew we could do it. And our coaches believed in us and we came through,” senior running back Frank Centofanti said.
The teams reversed their roles in the second half as the Rebels committed two turnovers, including a fumbled punt return on their first offensively opportunity. The Tigers Ethan Nezbeth would pounce on the ball at midfield, setting the Tigers up for a 4-yard pass from quarterback Brannon Brungard to receiver Jake Ford with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter.
That touchdown gave the Tigers the momentum they needed as they take the lead early in the fourth quarter at the conclusion of an impressive 11 play, 65-yard drive with Brungard running around right end 25-yards for the score. That touchdown gave them a 14-13 lead with 8:23 remaining in the game.
The Centofanti provided the winning touchdown four minutes later when he broke through the middle of the line for a 80-yard run. That touchdown gave them a 21-13 lead and set up the exciting final two minutes.
“Coach Brungard drew the play up perfectly and Jake Ford had a great block to set me up good,” Centofanti explained his run.
Read more: View all week nine game recaps/highlights
Springfield (7-2) will visit United in week ten. Crestview (3-6) will host Lisbon.