SOUTH LEBANON – The Cedar Crest football team scored a very meaningful win last night. Its most meaningful win to this point of the season.
What the Falcons are promising is that it isn’t their most meaningful win of the entire year.
On Friday night at Earl Boltz Stadium, Cedar Crest captured its fourth straight, season-opening Cedar Bowl victory, using a dominant start to overwhelm rival Lebanon High 41-7. Behind a physical offensive line and the hard running of junior back Justice Belleman, the Falcons scored three touchdowns in a 3:38 span in the middle of the first quarter, en route to a 41-0 lead.
Cedar Crest now leads the all-time series with Lebanon 28-15-1 and has outscored the Cedars by a combined margin of 186-55 over the past four years. But of the Falcons’ nine wins over the past three-plus seasons, four have come in the Cedar Bowl.
But maybe a better way to look at it is that Cedar Crest has now won three of its last four outings, dating back to last season.
Controlling the line of scrimmage, Cedar Crest ran the ball 41 times and attempted just four passes.
“That was our approach, being able to establish the run,” said Cedar Crest head coach Rob Wildasin. “And then throw off the run. Lebanon kind of does it the other way, which is OK. But we were able to control the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve done a nice job as a coaching staff of building on all three weeks of the season,” continued Wildasin. “If we keep doing what we’re doing and keep pushing, the kids will see it. The kids want to get better.”
“It was disappointing,” said Lebanon head coach Gerry Yonchiuk. “We did not expect this from our football team, at all. I think it was a little bit of both, them playing well and us not playing as well as we could have.
“They (the Falcons) really did well up front,” Yonchuik continued. “Their line pushed us around. We had a series of mistakes in the first half. And you can’t do that in a big rivalry game and expect to have success.”
The start of the anticipated grudge match was delayed an hour by a thunderstorm. And when it finally did get underway, the Falcons wasted little time gaining control of the outcome.
Cedar Crest drove its initial possession of the season 53 yards in seven plays for a five-yard Belleman touchdown scamper and a 6-0 lead. But the key play of the entire game may have been Jake Kalbach’s 68-yard return of a fumble – on what was a forward pass thrown backwards – that made it 12-0.
A bad center-quarterback snap on the Cedars’ very next play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble, and a subsequent 21-yard Belleman jaunt to the promised land. Cedar Crest led 19-0 with 4:01 of the first quarter remaining.
The Cedars fumbled a total of five times in the first half, and even the ones they didn’t lose cost them dearly in field position.
“Sometimes they throw the ball backwards on their screens,” said Wildasin of the Cedars. “We coached them (his players) up. We told them ‘Don’t stop and wait. Scoop and run’.
“The kids are very coach-able,” Wildasin added. “Our coaches put together a great game plan. And the kids executed it very well. We had some mistakes. But I though we capitalized on their mistakes. That was a big part of it.”
“It was the same for them,” said Yonchiuk of the delay. “It was frustrating that it pushed it back for both team. But it is what it is. I thought we were relaxed in a positive way. I thought our guys were ready. Our approach was correct. Our kids were dead-on.
“The touchdown on the fumble return hurt,” added Yonchiuk. “It was the wrong call on the (arm) band. But I thought that was crucial. We just can’t do those things. They were fundamental breakdowns, and that’s on me. I’ve got to make sure they don’t occur again.”
The Falcons carried a 26-0 advantage to the break, thanks to quarterback Stevie Roda’s three-yard sneak, with 2:18 left in the second quarter. It culminated a ten-play, 65-yard Falcon drive, one that was kept alive by Raymie Ferriara’s 49-yard reception on a third-and-long.
Then, Cedar Crest all but put the result to rest when Kobe Bolanos returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and a 34-0 bulge. Iziah Trimble’s 20-yard touchdown reception of a Roda aerial midway through the third quarter upped the CC lead to 41-0 and signaled the end of the evening for the starters.
“Kobe’s return was just the nail in the coffin,” said Wildasin. “We talked about putting a drive together to start the second half. This reinforces what I said about these guys. We can be a very good football team. But if we don’t improve each week, it won’t matter.
“I just enjoyed being outside and being on a football field,” continued Wildasin. “This is what we do it for. It feels so good to play. It’s fun to play football.”
“I was impressed with them,” said Yonchiuk of the Falcons. “I thought they were a class act. They weren’t chirping. Rob is running his program with a lot of class. I saw a lot of respect between both teams. But they out played us.”
Lebanon High did get on the board with 9:09 remaining, when Jason Bowman ran one in from 33 yards away.
Cedar Crest gained 183 yards on the ground, and limited the Cedars’ rushing attack to 69 yards. Belleman finished with 13 carries and 101 yards, in just under three quarters of work.
“Oh yeah, we saw that coming,” said Wildasin of Belleman’s performance. “He had a big scrimmage last week. It all comes from our offensive line. They can get nasty sometime. They have the chance to be a very good offensive line. They can make backs look great.
“They’ve (the Cedars) got good skill kids,” Wildasin added. “I love (Cody) Kissinger. I just think he’s a tough kid. They’re different to game plan against.”
“It’s just concerning to know that we got pushed around,” said Yonchiuk. “We’re not strong enough. The worst part was that it had to do with strength. They (the Falcons) pretty much did anything they wanted up-front. They stuck with their game plan. They got off the ball well, and we didn’t.”
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Cedar Crest 41, Lebanon 7
CC — Kalbach 68 fumble recovery (kick failed)
CC — Belleman 21 run (Sharifi kick)
CC — Roda 3 run (Sharifi kick)
CC — Bolanos 85 kickoff return (Trimble run)
CC— Trimble 20 pass from Roda (kick good)
L — Bowman 33 run (kick good)
Rushing — L: Hunter 11-73, Bowman 3-36, Kissinger 9- (-29). CC: Belleman 14-101, E. Horn 5-20, L. Horn 2-19, Munnion 3-13, Apple 4-12, Ramos 3-5, Mitchell 4-4.
Passing —L: Kissinger 13-26-0-182, Imm 2-6-0-27 CC: Roda 2-4-0-60.
Receiving —L: Suarez-Torres 4-62, Beckley 3-47, Ortiz 2-17, Maldonado-Hernandez 2-13, Hunter 1-41, Aquino-Rios 1-19, Caricabeur 1-2 CC: Ferreira 1-40, Trimble 1-20
Cedar Bowl History
2015 – Cedar Crest 41, Lebanon 7
2014 – Cedar Crest 38, Lebanon 24
2013 – Cedar Crest 40, Lebanon 24
2012 – Cedar Crest 67, Lebanon 0
2011 – Lebanon 47, Cedar Crest 14
2009 – Cedar Crest 33, Lebanon 14
Note: Cedar Crest leads the all-time series 28-15-1