By Cort Reynolds
Ada Herald Writer
ADA - Clutch Ada senior tailback Kellen Decker turned a short screen pass into a 69-yard touchdown with 6:53 left to lift the host Bulldogs to a 26-21 win over upset-minded Crestview in an epic, rain-soaked Northwest Conference battle Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.Both teams proved to be tough mudders by playing in a steady rain and cool temperatures the entire game.
The Knights had taken a 21-20 lead when Isiah Simerman made a leaping 38-yard TD grab from a fine Preston Zaleski aerial with 7:18 remaining to play.
But on the very next play from scrimmage, Ada quarterback Mason Acheson lofted a short pass to the left to the elusive Decker, who grabbed it in stride, broke a few tackles and then sped down the sideline through the puddles and mud to paydirt.
The ensuing two-point conversion pass failed to keep the Knights within striking distance, down only five.
Crestview had one last chance to pull off the upset when it took over at its own 30 with 2:19 to go. Noah Beach came up with a big nine-yard sack to put the Knights in dire straits. Then on third down and long, Bulldog Micah Roberson intercepted a long pass and returned it deep into Knight territory to stymie their last-ditch effort.
Ada then ran out the final 70 seconds to preserve the narrow Homecoming victory.
The hard-fought win kept the third-ranked Bulldogs in contention for a league title at 5-0 and 7-0 overall. The Knights fell to 3-4 overall and 1-4 in the NWC with the difficult defeat.
Crestview scored first after a strange sequence of events. Bulldog Matt Wilcox picked off a Knight pass on the game's first possession and appeared ready to return it all the way to the end zone. He had returned it up the sideline and across the field almost 80 yards to the Crestview five before he fumbled the ball back when switching hands.
The Knights then marched 95 yards to paydirt on a time-consuming drive behind the rugged running of stocky senior Jacob Harmon. He eventually rumbled 15 yards to the Ada four to set up first and goal.
Three plays later on fourth and goal, defensive pass interference in the end zone gave the Knights new life. On second down Zaleski scored on a one-yard keeper to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 2:05 to go in the opening stanza. Crestview thus earned the honor of handing Ada its first deficit of the season
Yet the quick-strike Bulldogs tied it on a 34-yard TD pass from Acheson to Roberson on a crossing route with 10:31 to go in the half.
But Crestview responded with a 66-yard scoring march of its own. On fourth and three at the Ada 29, Zaleski faked a pitch, spun to his left and connected with Harmon along the sideline, who then scampered 29 yards to the end zone on the wet turf for a 14-7 lead with 7:09 to go in the first half.
Ada came right back with a 70-yard scoring drive to tie it back up. Decker ignited the drive with a 15-yard run after breaking two tackles. Wilcox snagged a 14-yard pass, but then Acheson was sacked.
On fourth and 12, the line gave Acheson all day to throw and he kept the chains moving on a 12-yard strike to Wilcox. A 10-yard pass to Jacob Ansley got the Bulldogs to the Knight 17. Crestview almost picked off a pass when Roberson slipped in the end zone, but they couldn't hold on the wet pigskin.
Then on fourth and eight at the 15, Brenden Szippl snared an Acheson aerial at the two along the right sideline and the quick senior scurried over the goal line to tie it 14-all with 4:02 left before the break.
Ada put one last drive together before the half, but Seth Moser intercepted an Acheson pass shortly before intermission near midfield to thwart the next scoring opportunity.
The Bulldogs fumbled early in half two, giving the Knights a golden opportunity to take the lead. But they couldn't capitalize. From inside the Ada 10, Zaleski threw to the back of the end zone, where Roberson made a crucial diving interception to keep the Knights from taking the lead again.
The defenses posted scoreless quarters in the third stanza as the rain continued to fall steadily on the cool, brisk night. The Knights made a costly turnover early in the fourth period when they fumbled deep in their own territory.
Ada took over at the Crestview seven and Decker quickly powered in from seven yards out to put the purple and gold on top 20-14 with 9:24 to go. But after a false start penalty moved them back, the Bulldogs hooked the PAT kick just wide when the kicker slipped on the increasingly slippery field.
The Knights then raced 80 yards to take the lead back, albeit briefly. Zaleski hooked up with the speedy Simerman for a long catch and carry into Ada territory, with the hustling Ansley temporarily saving a TD with a diving shoestring tackle.
But then Simerman got behind the defense and hauled in a fine toss into the rain and wind by Zaleski for the 38-yard TD. Kameron Grubaugh's third straight successful extra point boot gave Crestview its final lead 21-20 before Decker made his elusive 69-yard winning TD catch and carry to squash their upset bid.
Ada has outscored its opposition 310-75 this season.
1 2 3 4 F
Ada 0 14 0 12 26
C'view 7 7 0 7 21
Ada visits backyard traditional rival Allen East (1-6, 1-5 NWC) Friday. The Mustangs earned their first win of 2012 by defeating Paulding 35-18 this weekend. The Bulldogs have beaten AE seven straight times.