Crosby leads Zanesville back to final four

Crosby leads Zanesville back to final four


Crosby leads Zanesville back to final four


Zanesville's Leo Crosby blows by Jackson defenders on his way to a 291-yard, three-touchdown performance Friday during the Blue Devils 38-21 regional finals victory in The Plains.

Zanesville’s Leo Crosby blows by Jackson defenders on his way to a 291-yard, three-touchdown performance Friday during the Blue Devils 38-21 regional finals victory in The Plains.

ATHENS – Last week, it was a big tackle for loss on the goal-line that helped take down Columbus DeSales.

This time, Zanesville’s Leondre Crosby did a team in with his legs.

Crosby, the Blue Devils’ two-way standout, ran 33 times for for a school-record 294 yards with four touchdowns and the Blue Devils pulled away for a 38-21 win against Jackson in a Division III, Region 9 final on Friday night at Basil Rutter Field.

The Blue Devils (12-1), who outgained the Ironmen 463-257, advanced to their second state semifinal in three years. Their opponent, and site of the game, will be announced on Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Crosby broke Bryan Gaiters’ former record of 286 yards, set against Portsmouth in 2007 at John D. Sulsberger Memorial Stadium. Crosby was part of a dominant ground game against the Ironmen that piled up 340 yards rushing on 41 carries – an average of 8.3 per carry.

“We knew it would be a physical game, but we felt like we were the more physical team,” Zanesville coach Chad Grandstaff said. “We knew we were faster and that was the difference, along with our athleticism. A lot starts with our offensive line. The last couple games we didn’t have much going offensively, but were able to wear them down in the second half. Leo ran the ball well, but Derek (Grandstaff) made a few key passes for us, too.”

No pass Derek Grandstaff made was bigger than his 69-yard completion to Ben Kaufman in the second quarter, a play that saw both players make a sight adjustment.

Facing a third-and-long from his own 13-yard line, the play was supposed to be a dig route to Alessio Amato, but No. 2 receiver Kaufman adjusted and found himself wide open after breaking away from his defender near the sideline. Grandstaff led him perfectly, and Kaufman’s catch-and-run got the Blue Devils inside the Ironmen 20.

Two plays later, Crosby blasted off right tackle for a bruising 14-yard touchdown run that pushed a 14-7 lead to 21-7 with 2:18 left before halftime.

“It was only supposed to be about a 5- or 10-yard play, but I floated it out to him,” said Derek Grandstaff, who hit 4 of 8 passes for 123 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown to Amato in the second quarter. “He had some open field in front of him and made a big play out of it.”

Braxton Snyder’s interception and 22-yard return set up Aaron Ashby’s 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, which pushed the lead to 24-7.

Jackson got within 24-14 when Kendal Neal hit Austin Leach for a 30-yard touchdown on a reverse pass with 3:30 left in the third quarter, but the momentum was short-lived.

With Crosby and their mammoth line leading the way, the Blue Devils marched 80 yards in nine plays – all on the ground – as they extended the lead to 31-14 with 10:54 left in the game. Senior Deaunte Goins raced 22 yards on a third down play to keep the drive alive, but Crosby had seven carries for 72 yards, as the smaller Ironmen defense struggled to keep pace.

The Blue Devils added another score in the fourth, a five-play, 70-yard drive that saw Crosby rip off a 45-yard run before plunging in from the 3.

It capped a dominant effort from an offense that has received more than its share of criticism after managing only 22 points in two previous playoff wins.

“You never really know when you’re this far in how things are going to be. You always prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” senior guard Coulter Wilson said. “When we started scoring we found out what they were really made of, and we found out we could move the ball.”

Crosby found sledding early, a byproduct of the line simplifying their scheme and handling the Ironmen’s array of stunting at the line of scrimmage.

“In film they ‘eagled’ down, but they didn’t eagle down this game,” Crosby said. “Beechcroft eagled down, DeSales eagled down, it’s hard to run the ball against an eagled down defense. When they didn’t do that, I knew something was going to bust open.”

Jackson, which had four turnovers, finished with 114 yards on 32 carries, while quarterback Hunter Sexton was 5-of-12 passing for 113 yards with two interceptions.


Twitter: @SamBlackburnTR


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