By JIM HAYNES
Times-Reporter sports writer
MIDVALE The Indian Valley Braves are hoping the third time is the charm, as they will be looking for their first OHSAA football playoff victory, in what they hope will be a long run in the postseason.
The Braves will host the Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs tonight at 7:30 in a Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal battle at Kelley Field.
The Braves (8-2) are making their third straight trip to the postseason, having lost the last two appearances to Johnstown-Monroe by scores of 42-21 in 2011 and 24-21 last season.
Indian Valley hopes that facing a different team, and playing a home game in the first round this year will produce a different result.
Indian Valley head coach Matt Lancaster feels the key will be ball control.
“We have to come out and sustain some drives and chew up the clock offensively. If we can do that, we will be successful.” said Lancaster.
The Bulldogs (6-4) are making their second consecutive appearance, and third overall (2000). They, too, are looking to bring home their first playoff victory.
Bloom-Carroll started the season off well by winning their first four games, however they have stumbled into the postseason, losing four of their last six to close out the regular season. In fact, it took a double-overtime win against Teays Valley last week for the Bulldogs to clinch their playoff spot.
The Bloom-Carroll braintrust is no stranger to Tuscarawas County, as the Bulldogs head coach is former New Philadelphia mentor Phil Mauro, while its athletic director is former Newcomerstown athletic director Chad Little.
The Bulldogs defense has struggled in recent weeks, having given up an average of 34 points per game over their last four contests, and will have their hands full with Indian Valley’s triple-threat of quarterback Brady Byers, running back Jake Davis, and versatile wideout Logan Ryan.
Davis and Ryan were wrecking balls last week against Tusky Valley as the pair combined to run for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Byers can cause the Bulldogs fits, as he is capable of beating them with the pass and the run.
Indian Valley comes into the game with momentum, having won their last two games against playoff qualifier Fairless and a decent Tusky Valley squad.
The Braves will need to keep an eye on Bulldogs quarterback Kelly Milliser who sports a strong throwing arm and also can take off running. Milliser’s favorite target is wide receiver Tyler Sorg. It was a Milliser 52-yard touchdown pass to Sorg on the games final play last week that forced the game into overtime. Much like the Braves, the Bulldogs have a formidable running game featuring speedster Jarrett Peters.
Lancaster knows his team will have its hands full Friday night.
“They (Bloom-Carroll) are a very solid team. They play a tough schedule and will certainly present a challenge to us.” observed Lancaster. “They like to run the spread out of the shotgun formation, and they have some play makers, so we need to tackle well.”
The Braves came into this season with several goals: win the Principals Athletic Conference, make the playoffs and host a playoff game.
While the Braves fell short of the PAC title, two out of three isn’t bad.
“Having a home playoff game is huge,” said Lancaster. “It has been this team’s goal for 10 months, and we are glad that we can reward our great fans and community with that. We fully expect to rise to the occasion and play our very best. We want to see Week 12.”