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Indian Valley 'D' gets an 'A' for playoffs
Nov 19, 2013 12:29 AM
Times-Reporter sports writer
MIDVALE  There’s a phrase that long has been associated with sports throughout the years:
“Defense wins championships.”
It’s that mentality and focus that this year’s Indian Valley Braves football team is hanging its hat on.
Coming off a strong defensive effort in Friday’s thrilling 7-3 victory over Philo in the Division IV regional semifinal game, the Braves defense is making a name for itself, and the stats bear witness to that fact.
Dating back to a regular-season game against playoff qualifier Fairless, the Braves defense has shut down touted, decorated quarterbacks such as Hunter Wells (Fairless), Kelly Milliser (Bloom-Carroll) and Zac Sheridan (Philo).
Those three offenses averaged 35 points per game, until they met the Braves defense. Indian Valley held those three teams in check, holding them to 45 total points. In two playoff games, the Braves defense is allowing only 12 points per game, and if you take away Bloom-Carroll’s touchdown on the opening kickoff on special teams, the Braves are surrendering an anemic 8 points per game.
“Our defense is playing its best ball right now and they are coming off their best complete game of the season, shutting down a very good Philo offense,” said Braves’ head coach Matt Lancaster.
While all football programs teach a certain philosophy offensively and defensively to establish an identity for their team, it is ultimately up to the players to buy into that philosophy and execute the plan on the playing field.
For Indian Valley, their attitude and belief in the system that Lancaster and his staff have put into place has separated them from the rest of the pack, not to mention the accountability that the team has to one another.
“Everyone has a job to do on defense,” observed Lancaster. “These kids read their keys and execute their assignment to the best of their ability because they refuse to let their teammates down.”
“We preach effort, toughness and selfless football and our kids have bought into executing their assignment with relentless pursuit to the ball and playing physical defense,” Lancaster added. “Our kids trust and believe in what we do defensively, why we do it, and have played with great effort and attitude.”
Becoming a successful team cannot be done with just the head coach being in charge, and Lancaster credits his entire staff for the outstanding job they have done preparing the team each week, in particular, defensive coordinator Aaron Haney.
“Aaron has done a great job preparing our defense for what they will be facing each week,” praised Lancaster. “He, along with the entire staff, put in countless hours to make our team the best it can be and it’s translating by the way we are playing and improving each week.” 
While the Braves defense has been tried and battle-tested, they may be facing their toughest foe this Friday night in the form of Steubenville Big Red.
Again, they will be tested by a talented team that can throw up points in a hurry as the Big Red averages just over 28 points per game.
The Big Red features athletic, strong-armed sophomore quarterback Mandela Lawrence-Burke. 
Burke threw two long touchdown passes to his favorite target, speedy wide-receiver Lucas Harrington, against Maysville last Friday as Big Red held on for a 22-20 victory. Much like the Braves, Big Red also features a potent running game with the likes of Johnny Blue and Robert Hayden.
Lancaster knows his team will have its hands full again come Friday night at Dover’s Crater Stadium in what is expected to be a local fan-friendly environment for Indian Valley.
“It’s going to be a battle against Steubenville to shut down that offense,” said Lancaster. “But we have good experience and depth on the defensive line and in the secondary, so we have been pretty solid against the pass with only a few breakdowns throughout the season. Our linebackers have improved as the year has progressed and defending the run is where our defense has grown up quite a bit.”
The Braves’ maturity will be tested Friday night, but rest assured, they will be ready for the task. 
Reach Jim at 330-364-8425 or
On Twitter: @JamesEricHaynes
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Edited: Nov 19, 2013 12:31 AM by Jeff Verbus
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Indian Valley 'D' gets an 'A' for playoffs