JOHNSTOWN -- Different post-season, same outcome.
For the second straight playoff season, the Indian Valley High Braves football team faced a tough road test at Johnstown-Monroe and, for the second time in as many tries, came up short, falling 24-21 to the hosts.
This past Friday's loss was especially tough to take as the Braves' four turnovers contributed mightily to their downfall.
"That's been our Achilles' heel all season," Indian Valley coach Matt Lancaster said. "Johnstown is a good team and they capitalized on nearly every one of our mistakes."
The contest began as advertised as the Braves (6-5) took the opening kickoff and marched nearly 80 yards on their first possession for the game's first tally, aided by a pair of Johnstown penalties.
The drive featured lots of tough running from sophomore running back Jake Davis and junior quarterback Brady Byers. A Davis 2-yard TD run followed by a Connor Kool PAT kick put the Braves up 7-0.
Johnstown answered quickly with a 66-yard scoring pass to receiver Nick Sadinsky by quarterback Tyler Thompson. The "bomb" was especially galling because the play came on a third-and-seven situation. Charles Benton's PAT kick knotted the score at 7-7 near the end of the first period.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Johnnies recovered a botched kickoff return opportunity and converted the gift into a second TD, coming at the 10:23 mark when sophomore Cody Farley bulled in from two yards out. The kick failed, but the hosts held a 13-7 lead.
That margin expended to nine points when Benton boomed a 42-yard field goal at the 4:41 mark.
Another Indian Valley fumble recovery led to yet another Johnstown score when Thompson connected again on a long "bomb" to Sadinsky, this time for 70 yards. Thompson ran for the PAT points to give the Johnnies its 24th and final points.
The Braves got an answering TD in the second period's waning moments when Brett Cox scored on a 74-yard pass play from Byers. Another Cool PAT sent the Braves to intermission down 24-14, but with loads of momentum.
That trend carried into the third frame, but with a twist.
"We lost one of our key linemen, Logan Ridgway, in the first half, and we thought we might have to get away from our power running game a bit in the second half," explained Lancaster.
The Braves' offense began the third with direct snaps to Davis in the 'Wildcat' formation. The new look paid immediate dividends and resulted in a Braves' TD pass from Davis to Byers for 64 yards. Another Cool PAT kick brought Indian Valley to a 24-21 deficit.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Braves would get.
Although they held defensively, a pair of costly pass interceptions (one on a potential tying or go-ahead drive late in the fourth period) negated any chance for victory.
What was supposed to be bruising rushing duel between the two squads featured a surprising amount of passing yardage. Johnstown (9-2) amassed 169 passing yards. Indian Valley (6-5) did even better, running up 250 yards through the air.
Johnstown added 240 rushing yards, while Indian Valley had 165. Davis finished with 82 yards on 19 carries. Byers added 58 ground yards and threw for 144. Brady Kotsmire picked off a Johnstown pass.
Pacing the Johnstown effort was Farley, who rushed for 165 yards. QB Thompson added 40 rushing yards and threw for 169 yards.
"This was a real tough loss," Lancaster concluded, "but I was real proud of how our kids came back in this game. We didn't want to come away with moral victories tonight."