Route 43 Bowl on tap Saturday
WINTERSVILLE — Having the rug ripped out from underneath one and being forced to take two weeks off would be a challenge in any walk of life.
For many during the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine measures it has brought, it’s been a reality.
For Indian Creek’s football team, who had to shut down for 14 days following the first week of Ohio’s modified playoffs, though, it wasn’t going to be the end.
The Redskins, who are 2-5, are back on the field for one more week, hosting arch-rival Edison in the annual Route 43 Bowl at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re coming back to play a rivalry game. They are focused and practicing hard,” Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor said of his team. “Playing your main rival makes it easier for us to focus back in.
“Edison is really good this year. They’ve made a lot of improvements under coach (Shane O’Brien). They play a lot like he did when he played. I got to coach him in an All-Star game. They’ve taken on his mantra.”
Getting the seniors on the field one more time was all the motivation Connor and Co. needed to push to come back.
“It’s important for our seniors,” Connor said. “To know we get to play our last game and our seniors get to go through their senior week, we can kind of share this together. We talk about how important family is, and I consider everything we do at Indian Creek to be family-oriented.”
For Edison (4-4), it provides a chance to end with a winning record for the first time since 2010 when the Wildcats went 8-2. Edison’s last win against the Redskins came in 2008.
“It would mean a lot for our program to finish with a winning record, something we haven’t done in a while,” O’Brien said. “That is something the guys set as one of their goals we’re trying to accomplish this year. I think it would really represent the hard work dedication we’ve had as a team.”
The Wildcats, who had one game called off due to the opponent having COVID issues, know getting to Week 10 itself has been an accomplishment.
“I feel bad for all the teams that are going through the adversity (of having games canceled),” O’Brien said. “We don’t have any recent film on them — it does make it a bit of challenge not having anything recent to study on them – but I’m sure it’s a lot harder for them not having the time with the kids on the field.”
What is different about the rivalry this year as opposed to the last several meetings is the playoffs are already in the rear-view, so all the focus is on Saturday alone.
Both teams come in with similar averages, as the Wildcats average 19.38 points and 232.13 yards per game, while the Redskins average 15 points and 223.14 yards on offense.
On defense, the match up also is close, with Edison allowing an average of 29.38 points and 285.63 yards per contest, and Indian Creek giving up an average of 30.29 points and 346.29 yards.
“We have to get off to a good start,” Connor said. “That’s one of the things you worry about with a layoff of 14 days is what is it going to be like to play again? (Edison) played last week in an exciting game. We have to focus on some of the things that you maybe take for granted when you’re continuously playing. We’ve gone backwards, not in ability, but in game preparation. We have to stress those things — a good start, not turning the ball over, tackling.”
The Redskins attack is led by the running back duo of Jeremy Brown (406 yards, five touchdowns, 4.72 yards per carry) and Matt Schaefer (411 yards, six touchdowns, 4.67 yards per carry).
Ethan Waggoner leads the Wildcat attack with 585 rush yards and five scores, averaging over 4-and-a-half yards per carry. Gage Cline (568 yards, three scores passing) and Jacob Cusik (130 yards, touchdown receiving) connected for the game-winning score against Wellsville last week.
“It’s bigger for us how we won that game, not just that we won it necessarily, knowing we were able to overcome adversity and come back and have that confidence,” O’Brien said. “Seeing a lot of the young guys we talk about actually step up and perform when the pressure was on is a big boost for us.”
Sam Coleman is a top 10 receiver in the area despite the Redskins having played fewer games and not being a passing team, having hauled in 22 passes for 249 yards and a score from David Ferroni (326 yards, score passing).