MIDVALE -- The Indian Valley Braves football team is playoff-bound again thanks to a convincing 35-7 home win over Tuscarawas Valley on Thursday.
The game turned around in the second half, when the Braves (6-4, 5-2 PAC) totally dominated the guests, outscoring them 29-0.
Indian Valley scored on the very first scrimmage play of the game when QB Brady Byers connected with Logan Ryan for a 75-yard pass play and the contest's first TD. Although the PAT kick failed, the Braves were up 6-0.
That score held up until the waning moments of the second period, when Tusky Valley signal-caller Derek Horstman got a hot passing hand.
Having already thrown a pair of interceptions, Horstman was undeterred on the first half's final possession.
Beginning its possession on their 21, the Trojans ( 3-7, 2-5 PAC) moved 79 yards in seven plays, most of which came through the air. Horstman connected on three key passes for a total of 60 yards before Kyle Stewart bulled his way into the end zone from the one for the tying score. A successful PAT kick sent the Trojans to halftime with a 7-6 lead.
Everything turned around at the beginning of the third period.
Following a third pass interception by Brady Byers (tying a school record for most 'picks' in a single game) and a 31-yard return, Indian Valley needed just five plays to move 45 yards to paydirt.
The score came with 8:27 remaining in the third when sophomore tailback Jake Davis scooted outside from eight yards out. A second-effort PAT run by Byers put the hosts up 14-7.
After forcing a turnover on downs, the Braves continued to roll offensively, moving 64 yards in five plays for a third TD. The key play in the drive was a 48-yard run by Byers. The scored came courtesy of Davis, who bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out at the 3:53 mark. A successful Konnor Cool kick put the Braves up 21-7.
In the final frame, Tusky was not able to mount anything in the way of a threat. Davis scored his third TD of the game with an 11-yard scamper to cap the Braves's first possession of the fourth. A final interception (Horstman's fourth of the contest) by Indian Valley's Ryan allowed the Braves to scrimmage from the Trojan one-yard line after a 24-yard return of the pick.
From there, it was Davis with his fourth score of the game. A final Cool placement accounted for the final score.
The duo of Byers and Davis was dominant for Indian Valley. Byers finished with 93 rushing yards and 124 passing yards in addition to the three pass interceptions.
Davis toted the leather 30 times for 171 yards and four scores. Ryan finished with three catches for 89 yards.
The Braves finished with 283 rushing yards and held Tusky Valley to just 73 ground yards. The Trojan aerial attack proved anemic, accounting for just 77 yards despite 23 attempts.
Following the win, a happy IV coach Matt Lancaster pointed to a second half key.
"We had been trying to exploit the right side of their defense," he began. "In the first half, we just weren't executing, but we did a great job with our rushing offense in the third.
"Our seniors decided to step up and they have been the catalyst to our season turnaround,' Lancaster continued. "When we were 2-4 and needed an attitude adjustment, it was our seniors who stepped up and turned this season around. Our eight seniors had to be good leaders because we are still playing so many young kids.
"Additionally, Byers and our pass defense was solid all game, but we must eliminate mistakes. We had three fumbles tonight and that must be corrected if we want to be a successful playoff team."
NEXT -- Indian Valley will play an OHSAA Division IV, Region 15 playoff game on Friday at 7:30 p.m.