HOWARD – They waited 14 years to play in the postseason. Dawson David made sure they were around for at least another week.
David blocked an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter Friday, preserving the East Knox Bulldogs’ lead over visiting Crestview and allowing them to hold on for a 21-20 victory in their regional quarterfinal.
“I knew it would be tough to score again, so I knew if I could get through there, I could get the job done,” said an exhausted David after the game. “Keep the train rolling. Survive and advance.”
The block was one of several highlights for both teams in a game filled with big plays. An 84-yard East Knox touchdown run by Caleb Gallwitz was answered by an 85-yard kickoff return by Crestview’s Evan Hamilton.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over twice in the red zone, only to see the Cougars turn the ball back over on the ensuing drives.
The final drive began when Crestview took over at its own 20 with 3:42 left and no timeouts. Quarterback Ross Kuhn led the Cougars on a quick drive downfield that included a pair of fourth-down conversions. With 16 seconds left, Kuhn scrambled and was tackled at the East Knox 10, and Crestview managed to get to the line and have Kuhn spike the ball with 0.3 seconds showing.
The 26-yard potential game-winning field goal attempt by Levi Kibler went wide by about three feet, and the Bulldogs celebrated their first playoff victory since 2005.
Caleb Gallwitz accounted for 301 total yards from scrimmage for East Knox, scoring all three touchdowns. He caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Kadden Lester, scored on an 84-yard sprint in the third quarter, then on a one-yard carry in the fourth. Cade Leach hit all three extra points – usually not a significant stat, but one that made the difference Friday.
“I’ve warned our kids from day one of camp: We do not miss extra points,” East Knox coach Cody Reese said. “I’ve seen too many games come down to that. I’ve even seen state title games lost due to a missed kick. So, we are accurate on those. We don’t mess those up.”
Gallwitz, who was named Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player earlier in the week, had 213 yards on 27 carries. He provided much of the spark on offense in the second half of Friday’s playoff win.
“Our linemen played phenomenally in the second half, springing the holes for me,” Gallwitz said. “Right now, we’re playing for the right to play the next week. If we lose, we never put on our pads again.”
Gallwitz’s first score tied the game at 7 in the second quarter. Crestview had struck first with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kuhn to Hamilton on the team’s opening possession.
After tying the score, East Knox turned to its defense, which didn’t allow another first down for the rest of the half. When the Bulldogs got the ball back, they went on a drive that extended from their own 13 to Crestview’s 9 in under two minutes – though the drive ended on a blocked field goal to close out the half.
“It was encouraging. It gave our kids confidence and showed them we could do it.” Reese said of the drive. “We reminded the players that it’s 0-0 now. All we have to do is go out and win the second half.”
In the second half, East Knox forced two fumbles and had an interception by Shane Knepp. The team allowed two touchdowns but never allowed the lead to slip away, thanks to the blocked PAT.
The victory gives the Bulldogs 11 wins for the first time ever. It was East Knox’s first victory in the playoffs since knocking off Nelsonville-York, 35-28, at home on Nov. 4, 2005. The Bulldogs lost the following week to Centerburg.
Reese was a senior on that team. It was the final season for legendary East Knox coach Chet Looney.
“I told the players, ‘You’re playing for me tonight,’” Reese said. “All of us former players would like to get out there, but we’re too old for that.”
It had been a while for the Cougars as well. Crestview had not been to a playoff game since 2011, when the team went 11-0 before falling to Lucasville Valley in the regional semis.
Kadden Lester finished 18 for 30, getting 193 yards in the air. Gage Steinmetz caught six passes for 56 yards. Braden Kannady caught 5 balls for 31 yards.
Kuhn was 13 of 22 for 140 yards. The Bulldogs held running back Sage Baith to 89 yards on 20 carries.
East Knox next faces Seneca East at a neutral site to be determined. The Tigers are 10-1, with their only loss coming in overtime to Carey in Week 7.