BYESVILLE -- Friday night's Division IV regional semifinal match-up between Indian Valley and Philo turned out to be a defensive battle --one that in the end the Braves' 'D' proved just a bit stingier resulting in a 7-3 victory to advance down the Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoff path.
"We just shut down a really good football team in Week 12," an overjoyed Indian Valley coach Matt Lancaster explained in between celebratory hugs from happy Braves' fans after the Division IV, Region 13 semifinal victory. "That in itself say a lot about our defensive effort tonight."
Much like Indian Valley's do-it-all senior quarterback Brady Byers, the Electrics featured one of their own in senior Zak Sheridan, who had piled up nearly 1,000 yards passing and more than 600 yards rushing during the regular season.
On this night, however, the Braves' defense held Sheridan to just 39 yards on the ground in 12 carries and limited him to a dismal 1-of-6 passing performance for a meager 25 yards.
The Philo offense finished with 179 yards on the ground in 38 attempts and just 25 yards passing for a total of just 204 yards.
"They came in with a potent offense with several dangerous players," Lancaster said. "I'm just proud of our kids' effort. They really wanted it and came up huge tonight. If just feels great to get a win in Week 12."
With both defenses playing at a high level, the Braves trailed by a slim 3-0 margin at the halftime break thanks to a 23-yard field goal by Philo senior Nathan Delozier at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter.
Philo had an opportunity to score again in the second quarter, but Zak Sheridan's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Byers with 10:42 remaining before halftime.
The Indian Valley offense came alive to open the third quarter to post the game's only touchdown.
The Braves took the second half kickoff and started at their nine-yard line after a holding call on the kick on what proved to be the game-winning drive.
Indian Valley put together a 13-play, 91-yard scoring march capped by a one-yard dive into the end zone by junior Jake Davis at the 6:03 mark. With senior Konner Cool's PAT kick, the Braves went ahead by the 7-3 score.
The key play in the drive was a fake-punt call by Lancaster that was executed to perfection by his squad.
Facing a 4-and-2 from the IV 42-yard line, Byers who doubles as the Braves' punter, went back into kick formation but he scrambled toward the left sideline reached the Philo 15-yard line for the first down to keep the scoring march alive.
Indian Valley looked to be in the driver's seat and heading for an insurance score with a time-consuming, 17-play march that ended when Sheridan stripped Ryan at Philo's 20 to stall the drive with the Electrics coming up with the football.
"Tonight was all about our effort," Lancaster said. "Even that fumble by Logan when we were trying to put the game away....he was battling for extra yardage when they knocked it loose. You can't be upset when a kid is giving effort like that."
Philo took over with 5:37 left in the game needing a touchdown to keep the season alive, but after seven plays, the Electrics faced a fourth-and-1 with two minutes left at the Indian Valley 43-yard line.
Sheridan attempted a QB sneak for the first down, but after the measurement Sheridan and the Electrics came up inches short once again the Indian Valley defense came up with a huge stop.
Indian Valley's offense came back onto the field, but Philo's defense made three stops in 58 seconds to give the Electrics one more shot.
On Byers' punt, it was Sheridan who took off with a 20-yard return looking for a big play before he was hit and fumbled at Philo's 38 and it was recovered by Indian Valley sophomore Brady Cotsmire to ice the game.
Logan led the Braves' ground attack with 112 yards in 14 carries, while Byers added 110 on 17 attempts and Davis finished with 41 yards on 11 totes. Byers hit on 4-of-12 passes for 31 yards, with Ryan latching onto three catches for 26 yards.
Delozier led Philo (9-3) with 46 yards on 11 carries, with Luke Miller adding 43 on seven attempts.
With the victory, the Braves improve to 10-2 and will now meet Steubenville on Friday for the Region 13 title. Big Red picked up a 22-20 win over Maysville in the other semifinal game.