ZOARVILLE -- The annual Indian Valley-Tuscarawas Valley rivalry game had more than just the usual conference implications at stake when the teams faced off on a wet and muddy Thursday evening on the Trojans' home turf.
Entering the game, the Trojans (4-6, 2-5 PAC) were still alive in the Division IV playoff picture, but only by the slimmest of margins and a punishing Indian Valley ground game deployed by Indian Valley's Jake Davis and Logan Ryan proved to be too much. That duo was able to notch a combined 381 yards on the ground while scoring all five of the Braves' touchdowns in a 35-20 regular-season ending victory.
Despite the fact that the Braves (8-2, 5-2 PAC) had already clinched their third consecutive playoff birth before their final regular season game, the win allows them to host next weeks opening round for the first time in school history.
"We cant wait for next week," said Indian Valley head coach Matt Lancaster. "The kids are excited about the opportunity to host the schools first playoff game, however, this being our third consecutive year (in the playoffs), we're not satisfied just being in. Wreally want to make a deep run."
The Braves got on the scoreboard first after a Trojan punt, and the ground game took over.
Quarterback Brady Byers broke loose down the right side for a gain of 17 yards on the first play of the drive, setting his offense up at its 40-yard line.
Ryan's first carry capped the drive as he scampered 60 yards for the game's first score. Konnor Cool's point-after made it a 7-0 advantage with 8-39 remaining in the first stanza.
The Trojans answered on their next possession, also showcasing a solid running attack.
Derek Horstman opened the drive with an 23-yard QB scramble, followed by a subsequent 10-yard run.
Kyle Stewart capped the series by plowing his way across the goal line from two yards out, and Charles Ackerman's PAT knotted the score at 7-7 with 3:01 remaining in the first round.
It was all Davis on the Braves' following drive as he notched seven carries for 40 yards, capping the drive with a one-yard run. The PAT kick was faked and holder Ryan hit Kyle Contini in the back of the end zone, giving the Braves a 15-7 advantage.
After a Tusky Valley punt, the Braves struck again as Ryan took the second play of the drive 75 yards for his second touchdown of the first half. The point-after was botched, leaving the IV advantage at 21-7.
The Trojans made a game of it just before the half when Brandon Locker hauled in a 37-yard TD strike from Horstman, pulling Tusky Valley within eight as the PAT was botched leaving the score at 21-13 at the half.
The second half consisted of more of the same as the Braves continued to dominate on the ground and provided a stingy defense that shut down the Trojans' offense.
"We weren't very happy with the defense in the first half and we got after them a little at halftime," said Lancaster. "Those guys really stepped up in the second half and were able to shut down a pretty good offense."
In the third quarter, Davis got the call seven times and tallied 43 yards before capping the drive with his second touchdown scamper from two yards out. Cool's PAT gave the Indian Valley a 28-13 advantage with 6:30 remaining in the third stanza.
The Trojans put together one last comeback attempt on their next drive, a 13-play, 96-yard push capped with a second Stewart touchdown from two yards out. Ackerman's point-after trimmed the deficit to 28-20 with 6:50 remaining in the fourth game.
Tusky Valley, however, was unable to make a defensive stop after a failed on-side kick attempt and Davis' third and final touchdown from 13 yards out with 4:28 remaining in the game put the contest out of reach, Cool added the placement for the final 15-point margin.
"We made some great changes that were really able to help our offense up front tonight," offered Lancaster. "These adjustments allowed us to have great success tonight on the ground from both backs. This was an all-around team effort and a great team win."
Indian Valley will play in the first round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs on the home turf Friday at 7:30 p.m.