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Indian Creek cannot overlook Brooke

WINTERSVILLE — Friday night, the latest edition of an old rivalry takes place, as Indian Creek hosts Brooke.

“I think it is one of those games where the kids know each other,” Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor said. “It’s cliche to say, but I think that makes it that much more special when you’re playing kids you’ve either played travel ball against or grown up against or, in the case of us, we play them in the seventh and eighth grade because they are in the league we’re in.

“Any time you’re playing somebody you know so well in a rivalry game, you don’t really need to add much to it. We have had some really good games between the two schools since we’ve renewed the rivalry, and I think the kids look forward to it.”

“This goes clear back to Wintersville and Brooke and that old rivalry,” Brooke head coach Mac McLean said. “These are two schools that should be playing each other and playing each other in every sport. It’s a good rivalry in football, and I think that rivalry exists between the two communities.”

The Redskins are 4-1 and coming off a last-second win over St. Clairsville on the road, its first at St. C since 2001.

“I think it shows the kids the reward for practicing hard and playing for a full 48 minutes,” Connor said. “The kids learned a valuable lesson. It took all 48 minutes to win that football game. We say win every minute, that is something that’s been on our shirts and been our motto all year, and I think we fulfilled that by playing 48 minutes of aggressive, hard-nosed football.”

That process of winning every minute will be important early against the Bruins (1-4), as Brooke has been a good first half team.

“Brooke has shown, especially in the first half of their games, that they can compete with good teams,” Connor said. “They have been in all of their games. It is important for us to get off to a fast start, execute well and do the little things. If we don’t, Brooke is a good football team, and if you give a good team anything extra, that can come back to haunt you.”

On the other side, the key for McLean’s group will be to put 48 minutes together, not just 24.

“It’s been out Achilles heel all year,” McLean said of the second half. “We have played some really good football in the first half of these games. Some of it is exhaustion and our lack of depth. Currently we’ve got 44 kids, including our ninth-graders. It’s an interesting situation when your lack depth because, when you lose a kid, you lose four or five positions and have to move kids around out of their natural positions.”

He knows the Redskins will be one of the best teams the Bruins will see.

“There’s no way to look around what Indian Creek has done to this point in the year,” McLean said. “They have defeated some pretty good competition in St. Clairsville and East Liverpool, and their only loss is to Indian Valley, who is no push over. We’re going to get up for the rivalry, but we know we’re going up against a talented and well-coached Indian Creek team.

“I have to give a lot of credit to their coaching staff. Andrew Connor is one of the most established coaches in the valley, and he is a class act. I think the kids out of Wintersville and Mingo have a toughness that has been there since I was a kid and they bring it on to the field.”

Another key for Brooke will be slowing down the Indian Creek offense and running back Trevor Fante, who is third in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area with 490 yards and six scores. The Redskins overall average 253.8 yards and 24.6 points per game.

“We’re going to have to tackle better,” McLean said. “We have given too many hundred-yard backs. So many times we have had them at the point of attack, and we miss tackles. It’s hard to find a place where Indian Creek is weak. I would say they are on par with Wheeling Park, and we know what kind of challenge that was.”

“The best defense for us might be a good offense. We need to extend our possessions and quit stalling inside the 10-yard-line. When we get down there, we have to not settle for field goals and put six and seven on the board.”

Brooke’s attack is led by the running back duo of Max Camilletti and Roger Gabbert, each of whom have around 150 yards and a score. Brooke averages 283.25 yards and 20.25 points.

The quarterback battle will be between Indian Creek’s Sam Mazar (375 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, 193 rush yards, four rush touchdowns) and Brooke’s Joshua Shorts (673 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions).

Creek’s win at St. Clairsville propelled them to fourth in Division IV, Region 17, as well as points in the AP poll. But, Connor’s not ready to look forward just yet.

“You can never start thinking about your long- term goals when you still have short-term goals in front of you,” he said. “This week, our short-term goal is we have rivalry game. You don’t want to start projecting or looking ahead because it is when you do those kinds of things that things don’t go your way. We look at it from a standpoint that we control what we end up being as a final product if we go out and work hard.”

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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