GNADENHUTTEN -- "Unfinished business."
That's the mantra for the 2013 Indian Valley High football team.
The slogan, of course, refers to the program's burning desire to take the next step and win in the post-season. The past two campaigns have seen the Braves ousted from the playoffs by Johnstown-Monroe, last November in a heart-breaking 24-21 setback.
Seventh-year head coach Matt Lancaster welcomed 52 players to pre-season drills. After posting records of 2-8, 2-8 and 3-7 in his first three seasons, Lancaster is a combined 19-13 over the past three years, including the aforementioned playoff losses.
"We feel our program has arrived at the point where just making the playoffs isn't going to be enough," Lancaster explained. "One of our goals is to be a successful playoff team. Another goal is to win our league and go 1-0 each week.
"We are experienced in that all of our main offensive threats return," the Braves' boss continued. "That should allow us to establish our running game and to be more innovative with our passing game.
"Our D-line is solid and we also return the five offensive linemen who finished the playoff game in November," Lancaster noted. "We have some holes to fill at linebacker right now and that's critical because of our 3-5 scheme."
The Braves' special teams are also experienced with kicker Connor Cool, punter Brady Byers and long snapper Will Love. In fact, one more PAT by Cool will establish a school record.
Only a half dozen gridders were lost to graduation. The biggest losses were lineman Logan Ridgway and linebacker-fullback Brandon Fox. Each was named to the all-Principals Athletic Conference and all-Eastern District first team all-star groups last year.
Also lost were linebacker/tight end Brayden Mitchell along with Ben Aponik, Auston Western and Brett Cox.
Heading the list of returnees is a trio of players who also earned first team all-star honors from the PAC and the East District. Seniors Byers (6-3/190 quarterback-defensive back) and Logan Ryan (6-0/170 receiver-running back-linebacker) headline a 10-player class of 12th graders.
Byers was 50-of-96 as a passer last fall with just three "picks" and seven TDs. Ryan hauled in 25 catches for 563 yards. He also returned punts and kickoffs.
The other first team all-PAC and all-East District all-star from last season is junior Jake Davis (5-9/210 running back), whose 241 carries, 1506 rushing yards and 24 scores led the team. His 146 points last fall was a new school record. Additionally, he lost just one fumble all year.
A pair of all-PAC and all-East District second team selections also return in juniors Brock Weber (6-0/240 lineman) and Kyle Contini (5-9/200 linebacker). Weber anchored an offensive line which cleared the way for nearly 3.000 yards while Contini contributed 78 tackles.
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Jared Kerns (6-3/240 tackle), Joey Kopp (6-3/240 tackle), Cool (5-8/170 kicker-receiver-linebacker) and Trevor Garbrandt (6-1/240 defensive lineman) along with juniors Brandon Anderson (5-10/230 guard), Will Love (5-9/170 snapper-fullback-linebacker and Caden McGuire (5-11/165 cornerback) and sophomore Brady Cotsmire (5-11/165 safety).
Other seniors on the squad are Dominic Cottrell (6-0/170 running back-lineman), Caleb Albrecht (5-9/180 tight end-linebacker), Matthew Dauch (6-3/225 lineman) and Jesse Kanter (5-10/235 lineman).
Other juniors include Jordan Stout (5-10/160 receiver-defensive back), Jay Elliott (5-9/150 receiver-defensive back), Camryn Parrish (5-8/140 receiver-defensive back), Tyler Feutz (5-5/140 fullback-linebacker) Mickey Maurer (5-9/150 receiver-defensive back), Cody Coventry (5-9/200 lineman), Trevor Kohl (5-9/174 lineman-linebacker), Jacob Jordan (5-8/170 lineman) and Josh Terry (5-9/200 lineman).
The rest of the sophomores are Nate Petrie (5-11/155
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receiver-linebacker), Ross Love (5-8/140 receiver-defensive back), Alec Love (5-10/160 tight end-linebacker), Steven McMullen (5-10/145 receiver/defensive back), Dalton Bolon (5-11/160 tight end-linebacker), Jayden Helter (5-9/155 receiver-defensive back), Klayton Kerns (5-9/145 running back-defensive back), Blake Ripley (6-0/175 wide receiver-lineman), Dresden Korns (5-7/150 fullback-lineman), Tobie Myers (5-10/140 receiver-defensive back), Allija Lantzer (5-8/175 lineman-linebacker), Brandon Terry (6-0/210 lineman), Justin Martinelli (5-9/200 lineman-linebacker) and Koby Cool (5-9/235 lineman).
Completing this season's roster are freshmen Brandon Ledbetter (5-10/170 running back-linebacker), Brandton Leggett (5-7/135 receiver-defensive back), Brennan O'Connor (5-10/150 quarterback-linebacker), Wyatt Garbrandt (5-10/155 receiver-defensive back), Cory Carlisle (5-8/150 running back-receiver-linebacker), Michael Dillon (5-8/155 running back-linebacker), Caden Rostad (5-7/145 fullback-linebacker), Hunter Baker (5-6/155 lineman), David Isaacs (5-7/145 lineman), Adam Tice (5-10/175 lineman), Joey Ford (5-10/170 lineman) and Cody Booth (5-4/125 receiver-defensive back).
There are no schedule changes this year. The Braves will be a Division IV, Region 15 team for playoff designation.
Lancaster sees this season's PAC race as wide open.
"Manchester is the defending champs," he began, "but CVCA is always tough. Triway returns a lot; Fairless and Tusky will be improved and Timken always has great athletes. We were 5-2 in the league last season and our kids want to do better than that this season."
Lancaster is embarking upon his seventh season and owns a career mark of 26-38.
Varsity assistant coaches are Jeremey Bolon, Matt Carroll, Aaron Haney, Jamie Herman, Chad Peterman, Brian Ridgway and Robby Anderson. The eighth grade coaches are Jake Love, Anderson and Brian Emler,while Bill Gilmore and Chuck Albaugh handle duties for the seventh grade. Indian Valley opens on the road on Friday, at Sandy Valley. The PAC portion of the schedule will kick in following two more non-league encounters against Claymont and Garaway.