OLIVESBURG — For Firelands Conference football fans, Saturday may as well be Super Bowl Sunday.
Undefeated Crestview (8-0, 4-0) hosts undefeated Norwalk St. Paul (7-0, 3-0) in what is the de facto FC championship game — every other team in the league has at least two conference losses.
Crestview and St. Paul shared the Firelands Conference championship with Monroeville during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. All three teams finished with 5-1 league records.
Last year’s conference crown was the eighth in the past nine seasons for the Flyers. St. Paul didn’t lose a conference game in winning six straight outright FC crowns from 2013 to 2018 and shared the title with Western Reserve in 2012 under veteran coach John Livengood, who has been in charge since 1991.
“They’re very well-coached and they have been that way for 30-some years,” Crestview coach Steve Haverdill said. “That’s why they’ve dominated our conference for the most part.
“We’ve got our hands full.”
Before last year, Crestview’s last FC crown came in 2011. The Cougars beat St. Paul 28-24 in Week 9 that year, the last Crestview win in the series.
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, both teams are virtually guaranteed spots in the expanded-format playoffs — the top 16 teams in each region qualify for the postseason this year. Crestview is second in Region 22 of Division VI, while St. Paul sits atop the Division VII, Region 25 ratings.
Norwalk St. Paul (7-0, 3-0) at Crestview (8-0, 4-0): The Flyers are coming off a bye week after blanking Western Reserve 10-0 in Week 7. The game’s only touchdown came on a 34 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Fisher to Dylan Deppen on a fourth-and-17 play early in the third quarter. Defensive lineman A.J. Meyer set up the TD with an interception and later recovered a fumble near his own goal line late in the fourth to preserve the win. For the season Fisher has completed 35 of 57 passes for 597 yards and seven touchdowns. Will Stieber leads a rugged ground game with 840 yards and 11 touchdowns on 150 carries, while Quincey Crabbs has 581 yards and seven TDs on 97 attempts. Crabbs leads the defense with 66 tackles, while Stieber has 62 stops. Norwalk punter Tyler Perkins averages 44.8 yards per punt and is committed to Iowa State.
The Cougars christened the newly-installed artificial surface at Scott Bailey Memorial Field with a 43-8 win over Plymouth. Quarterback Hayden Kuhn completed 12 of 13 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Connor Morse rushed for 162 yards and two TDs on 35 carries. For the season, Kuhn has completed 71% of his passes (55-78) for 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns with just one interception. Morse has rushed for 1,261 yards and 23 TDs on 177 carries. Gabe Smedley has 21 receptions for 314 yards and six touchdowns, while Adison Reymer has 16 grabs for 368 yards and three scores. Defensively, Morse leads the way with 82 tackles. Owen Barker has 57 stops and 10 sacks.
West Holmes (8-0, 4-0) at Ashland (3-5, 3-1): The Knights are coming off an impressive 51-14 win over highly-regarded Shelby. West Holmes forced five turnovers, including a pick-six by Garrett Eastep. Sam Williams-Dixon had more than 100 yards rushing and receiving and quarterback Noah Clark completed 20 of 26 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns. Eastep had a pair of receiving touchdowns.
Ashland kept its playoff and Ohio Cardinal Conference title hopes alive with a stunning 36-34 win at Lexington, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes. Quarterback Landon McFrederick has completed 134 of 219 passes for 1,539 yards and 16 touchdowns and has rushed for a team-best 494 yards on 68 carries. Jonathan Metzger has 47 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns, while Grayson Steury, the hero of last week’s comeback at Lex, has 15 catches for 302 yards and five TDs. Cayden Spotts has rushed for 482 yards and four touchdowns on 99 carries. Defensively, Kadin Schmitz continues to lead the way with 94 tackles. Braylen Hider has 76 stops while Metzger has three interceptions.
Hillsdale (4-4, 3-2) at Waynedale (4-4, 3-2): The Falcons got back on the right track with a 30-0 win over Smithville last week. Quarterback Jake Hoverstock completed 12 of 17 passes for 123 yards, including touchdowns of 27 yards to Max Vesper and 9 yards to Caden Fickes. Cole Sinnett and Bo Moody both rushed for touchdowns as the Falcons piled up 160 yards on the ground. Hoverstock has completed 47 of 77 passes for 354 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 453 yards and four TDs on 69 carries. Vesper and Jax Rogers lead the defense with 58 tackles apiece. Vesper ranks among area leaders with five interceptions.
The Golden Bears got roughed up by Wayne County Athletic League heavyweight Norwayne 56-24 last week. Waynedale surrendered 563 yards of total offense to the Bobcats. Waynedale quarterback Peyton Lemon threw for three touchdowns in the loss and has thrown for more than 1,000 yards through eight weeks. Justin Hershberger ran for a score against Norwayne.