MIDVALE — It started out as a snowball on a downhill descent and eventually turned into an all-out avalanche.
What had been a closely-contested one-point game with less than three-and-a-half minutes to play in the third quarter became a lopsided final as unbeaten Indian Valley scored the last 27 points to defeat Meadowbrook 50-22 in a Division IV, Region 15 quarterfinal game before a packed house at Kelley Field on Friday.
It was anybody’s game in the late stages of the third quarter, with Indian Valley clinging to a narrow 23-22 lead when Meadowbrook failed on a two-point conversion try after scoring with 3:29 on the clock, but it was all Indian Valley after that with junior back Caden Hostetler spearheading the stunning onslaught.
The Braves scored on their final four possessions, the first coming in the final minute of the third period when junior QB Cade Williams connected with Hostetler for a 48-yard TD, with the elusive 5-9, 145-pounder slipping a tackle at the 25 and racing to the end zone.
The two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but Indian Valley had pushed its lead to 29-22 with 35 ticks left in the third round.
After forcing the Colts into a three-and-out, it didn’t take long for Indian Valley to start the ball rolling and it was — who else — Hostetler who did the damage again as he ripped off 75-yard TD run, jitterbugging his way for the first 20 yards through a sea of Colt defenders and then breaking into the open for the final 50.
His twin brother, Caleb Hostetler, added the PAT kick to extend the Braves’ lead to 36-22 with 8:31 remaining.
Meadowbrook turned the ball over on downs at its 30, and the hosts pretty much put the game away with another tally, Caden Hostetler covering the final 17 yards and Caleb Hostetler kicking the extra-point for a 43-22 spread with 3:43 to play.
The Colts lost possession on the ensuing kick-off, with IV junior Robert Evans emerging with the pigskin in a muddy tangle of bodies at he Meadowbrook 41.
The Braves went for the knockout punch and used a 34-yard Williams pass to junior Braeden Lehigh to advance the ball to the MHS four-yard line where sophomore Zach Love got the payoff and senior Jameson Herman added the conversion kick for the final points of the night with 2:23 to play.
"I’m proud of the way our kids kept fighting," said Indian Valley coach Matt Lancaster after his team improved to a spotless 11-0. "We had a rough first half, but a lot of that was due to Meadowbrook because that’s a quality playoff team.
"In the second half," he continued, "our line started taking over and Caden just played lights out."
"Our tackling was horrific in the first half and that’s very uncharacteristic of us," said Lancaster, "but we shored it up in the second half and shut them down.
"That’s a great win for our community," he added. "It’s all about survive and advance, now."
After receiving a strong defensive effort for most of the season, it was the Colts’ inability to contain the talented Hostetler — who finished with 19 carries for 177 yards and four TDs — that proved fatal.
"We didn’t tackle the guy with the ball and that’s what it came down to," said Meadowbrook coach Jeff Twiddy. "We said before the game that defense wins championships and that’s not just a saying, it’s how it actually goes.
"The conditions favored their brand of football," the Colts’ coach continued, "and we did a lot of things we didn’t do all year. We just didn’t execute."
Hostetler got running support from Williams with 14 rushes for 70 yards and Zach Love with 11 carries for 57 stripes. Williams hit only four passes in eight attempts, but each was key and they totaled 154 yards added to the Braves’ 326 rushing for a total offensive output of 480.
Meanwhile, Meadowbrook (8-3) closed with 264 total yards, 139 on the ground and 125 through the air. Ferguson had 18 carries for 79 yards and Blattner added 55 yards on 11 rushes. The Colts were 10-of-22 passing, with Davis Black going 8-of-19 for 112 yards, with Easton Black catching four aerials while Feyko landed three.
Indian Valley got the game’s first points after gaining possession at the Meadowbrook 32 midway through the opening quarter after a shanked punt.
Caden Hostetler turned what at first was a slow-developing play in to a 32-yard TD, with Caleb Hostetler’s PAT giving the hosts a 7-0 lead at the 4:44 mark of the first period.
Meadowbrook countered with a 71-yard scoring march capped by a 23-yard TD pass from junior QB Davis Black to senior receiver Bobby Feyko, with junior back Brady Blattner tossing a jump-pass to Feyko over the line to put the Colts on top, 8-7, with 2:33 left in round one.
Indian Valley came right back and used a 50-yard pass from Williams to senior Jarrett Swinderman pass to set up an 18-yard TD run by Zach Love, but Caden Hostetler was stopped on the two-point try leaving the Braves on top, 15-8.
The Colts went 80 yards in 15 plays to take a one-point halftime lead, getting most of the yardage on the ground although the TD came on a four-yard throw-back pass from sophomore Boston Black to Davis Black.
Sophomore back Timmy Ferguson tacked on the two-point conversion, putting MHS in front, 16-15, with 2:08 left until the intermission.
Indian Valley regained the lead at the outset of the third quarter, sparked by a 40-yard kick-off return by Caden Hostetler to the MHS 40.
Nine running plays later, the Braves were in the end zone when junior Karson Hartrick bulled over from a yard out and Caden Hostetler tallied the two-point conversion run to put IV on top, 23-16, with 7:39 left in the third chapter.
The Colts came right back and covered 63 yards in nine snaps, featuring a 16-yard run by Blattner and capped on a 29-yard TD tipped ball connection from Davis Black to senior Easton Black, but Meadowbrook’s attempt to take the lead with a two-point conversion was stopped short leaving the visitors down by one, 23-22, with 3:29 on the third quarter clock.
Despite the quicker-than-hoped exit from the playoffs, Coach Twiddy credited his team for putting together a seven-game regular-season winning streak and also praised his outgoing senior group.
"I’m very proud of them," he said. "After starting 1-2, the things they accomplished were impressive. They had every reason to fold the tents, but they didn’t and we have a lot of positives to build off of from this season.
"Most of these guys will be back, because were were very young," Twiddy added.
"That senior group is not replaceable," the Colts’ coach related. "They gave us excellent leadership and they’ve been a big part of our two playoff teams."
Indian Valley will take on Philo — a 31-13 winner over St. Clairsville — in the Division IV, Region 15 semifinals Friday at 7:30 p.m., with a possible site, ironically, being Meadowbrook’s Eugene Capers Field although the official announcement will come today from the OHSAA.