DOVER -- All good things come to an end.....and so it was for Indian Valley High's record setting Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoff run on Friday night with a tough 17-14 loss to Steubenville High Big Red in a Division IV regional championship game at Crater Stadium.
The Braves gave their fans quite a ride, with a spirited postseason run that included the first two football playoff wins in school history to reach the title game. But a stingy Big Red defense pitched a shutout at the Indian Valley offense in the second half that proved costly.
"We just couldn't get on track offensively tonight," Indian Valley coach Matt Lancaster explained. "We had some negative plays and when you have an offense like we do, we can't afford to make those negative plays. But I couldn't be more proud of our kids effort and fight all long right up to the end tonight."
Indian Valley took a 14-10 lead in the locker room at the halftime break, but all the offense in the second half would belong to the Big Red with the only touchdown of the half.
Steubenville finally broke through to take the lead on its second possession of the second half, marching 78 yards in seven plays, with sophomore Johnnie Blue scoring on a seven-yard run with just :14 seconds left in the third period to give Big Red the 17-14 lead they would never relinquish.
Making the Braves' second half offensive woes even greater was an injury to senior QB Brady Byers early in the fourth quarter.
"Brady sort of tweaked his arm there a little bit, but I don't think it really affected him," Lancaster added. "I'll take some of the blame in the second half of this one because I didn't put our kids in the best positions out there at times tonight.
The Braves got one last shot with just 2:33 remaining in the game, taking over at their own 34-yard line, but once again the Big Red defense held on downs to seal the game.
Steubenville took the opening kickoff and drove 67-yards in 15 plays with sophomore QB Mandela Lawrence-Burke, who was busy on the drive scoring on a five-yard TD run putting Big Red on top 7-0 at the 6:56 mark of the first period. Lawrence-Burke contributed five carries for 30 yards on the drive and then produced the game's first touchdown.
Indian Valley to its credit was quick to respond, putting together a 17-play, 69-yard scoring drive of their own following the kick-off. Junior Jake Davis capped the drive with a short two-yard run out to tie the game at 7-7 with 10:42 left in the second stanza.
On Steubenville's next crack on offense possession, Blue broke free on a 48-yard scamper down the sideline, putting the ball at the Indian Valley 17-yard line. But the drive would stall and Big Red would settle for a 33-yard field goal by senior John Paul Duff to grab the lead again at 10-7.
Once again, Indian Valley responded to retake the lead and momentum headed to the intermission.
The Braves took over at their own 32-yard line and proceeded to march 68 plays in eight plays which included a key fourth down conversion. Indian Valley faced a 4-and-8 from the Steubenville 32-yard line once when Byers rolled out fired deep down field to senior Logan Ryan, who hauled in a 31-yard gain to the Big Red one-yard line. Davis punched it in from a yard out for his second TD of the night with 3:35 left before halftime.
But that proved to be the end of the Braves' scoring on the night.
Indian Valley's potent running attack was limited to just 161 yards on 37 carries, with Byers leading the way with 67 on 12 carries, while Davis finished with 60 yards in 15 attempts and Ryan added 34 on nine totes. In the air, Byers hit on 6-of-9 passes for 59 yards with Ryan hauling in four receptions for 52 yards.
Steubenville (9-4) was paced by Blue's big night which produced 194 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Lawrence-Burke chipped in with 69 on 15 carries for the winners.
Indian Valley finishes it's stellar gridiron campaign with a mark of 10-3, and with just losing nine seniors hope for another deep playoff run next season