Bulldogs host Ashland Crestview in first playoff game since 2005
HOWARD — The football playoffs bring a lot to a school, especially one with a long, but distant history of making it to Week 11.
The East Knox Bulldogs are getting to see, feel and smell that once again after a 13-year absence. But, the Bulldogs know there’s also a business to attend to — Ashland Crestview. The teams will tangle in the first round of the Division VI playoffs Friday at 7 p.m. at East Knox.
“We’re really excited to play this week. This is huge for the program,” said East Knox football coach Cody Reese. “We’re very blessed. We’re looking forward some more football.
“But, it’s one week at a time. That’s been our motto all year long. We’re not looking ahead. We’re focused on Crestview. They are a good football team. We want to play hard, do our jobs and have some fun.”
The Bulldogs (10-0) have done that all year — played hard and focused on each week as it came. They were able to overcome some of the shortfalls that hampered the team the last couple of years, thanks to a solid senior class, and are ready for Week 11.
“These seniors, a lot started as sophomores, so they’ve played three or four years collectively as a group,” Reese said. “These seniors have done a great job being leaders of the team and program. I think they’ve done such a good job, I’m hoping this will set the tone for seasons to come. We want to build on what they’ve accomplished the last four years.”
The Bulldogs will have their work cut out for themselves this week as Crestview brings a physical and balanced team into the Dog Pound.
Sage Baith is a 1,000-yard rusher with 13 touchdowns, but the Cougars (7-3) can also air it out. Quarterback Ross Kuhn has completed over 50 percent of his passes for 1,044 yards and eight TDs.
Since a tough 14-6 loss to St. Paul in Week 5, the Cougars have been putting up some big number offensively, averaging 36 points per game.
“They are big and physical and like to run the football. They’ve also got a good quarterback who can pass or run. They’ve got talent all over the field,” Reese said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go. … We’ve got to execute at a high level and be physical if we want to be successful.”
The Bulldogs have had little trouble on either side of the ball this year. The offense is averaging 47 points a game, while Cardington is the only team to put 20 points up on the EK defense. The defense has tossed three shutouts and allowed less than 10 points on two other occasions.
Offensively, EK has given opposing defenses fits with its two-dimensional attack.
Senior running back Caleb Gallwitz has been explosive all season, rushing for 2,253 yards, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. He’s also scored 38 touchdowns on the season, nearly four per game.
But, if a team stacks the box to try to stop Gallwitz, the Bulldogs and Kadden Lester can chuck it with the best of them. The senior signal caller has completed almost 70 percent of his passes (111 of 159) for 1,639 yards. He’s got an incredible 20 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions on the year.
Gage Steinmetz is his favorite target (49 catches, 674 yards), but Weston Melick (19-236), Cade Leach (16-260) and Braden Kannady (14-310) also make defenses sweat.
“We give defenses fits. We like to throw, but we can also run. … Ultimately, that’s helped us be successful,” Reese said.
To have that kind of success, though, much is dependent on the hogs up front. Treyton Slone, Luke Grosscup, Dawson David, Kaden Bates and Caiden Slone have moved mountains all fall, giving Gallwitz huge holes and Lester plenty of time to find his receivers.
David, especially, has been tasked with a lot of responsibility as center, but leads by example and with his emotion.
“He’s always upbeat and has a high positive energy. He’s a great leader and team captain,” Reese said. “He talks the offensive line through situations and blocking schemes. He definitely leads the charge for us up front. He’s been vital and critical to our success.”
Reese knows his team will have to continue that physical dominance and execute at a high level in order to be successful this Friday.
“They (Crestview) are very physical up front, so we’ve got to match that. Offense and defense has to execute at a high level. And we have to take care of the football. No silly penalties or turnovers,” he said. “If we can do that, everything else will take care of itself.”