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Tough finish to an outstanding year by Indian Creek

November 5, 2011
By FRED YOUNCE - Sports writer (fyounce@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Though the scoreboard of Indian Creek's playoff game with Steubenville Big Red showed the Redskins dropping a 68-13 decision, it doesn't tell the real story of how far the program has come and where it could be heading.

"The kids played hard," said Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor. "Things kind of got away from us. I'm proud of the kids for the whole season.

"This shouldn't be a reflection of the year."

Article Photos

SIX — Indian Creek’s Michael Furda catches a touchdown pass on the Redskins’ first possession of the game.
-- Ron Gardner

With most believing Big Red was going to impose its will from the opening kickoff, the Redskins surprised many by marching down the field and scoring on their opening drive.

Led by the passing of senior David Kemp and a well-timed draw play by senior Mark Ludewig, the Redskins went right at the vaunted Big Red defense. Kemp hit senior Mike Furda from 12 yards out for a score and with an extra point the score read 7-0 Redskins.

"He's made throws all year when he's had time," said Big Red head coach Reno Saccoccia. "I thought that's one thing that we didn't do in the first quarter that we normally do, our blitzes were a little bit late."

So impressive was the opening drive that Big Red was forced to make an adjustment, moving Ohio State recruit Najee Murray up from safety to corner to cover Furda.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, the standout receiver was injured on their second drive of the game and did not return, allowing Murray to move back to safety.

"The kid is a good football player," said Connor. "It's tough to win when you lose one of your better kids."

Indian Creek showed resilience when Big Red scored 21 unanswered points. The Redskins did not roll over, going on a huge drive with Kemp continuing to look impressive. Without Furda, he hit junior Alex Young and sophomores Blake Roar and Justin Cummings for key receptions.

"We've been facing athletic receivers all year," said Saccoccia. "We went against athletic receivers against Baltimore, Buffalo, and Ursuline so we've gone against athletic receivers.

"They're receivers are good, give them credit, that's why they're in the playoffs."

Ludewig ran the ball in from two yards to complete the drive and making the score 21-13.

It was all Big Red from there as the home team scored twice more before the first half ended and blew the game open with a barrage in the third quarter to roll to round two of the Division III playoffs.

Saccoccia was complimentary of the Redskins after the effort they displayed.

"I want to congratulate Andrew Connor, his players, and his seniors," he said. "They're tough kids. Tonight was just our night.

"If we played again it might be their night, but tonight was our night."

That doesn't end the story for the Redskins.

Indian Creek, having made the playoffs this season for the first time since 1996, were welcomed by the No. 1 Division II team in the state and three-time state champion yet the Redskins still came out swinging.

They didn't run scared from their opponent and didn't just roll out their helmets in surrender.

They fought like a team that believed in itself and wanted to win, not just have a good showing.

When they sat 2-2 early in the season and everyone counted them out, they won six straight, including wins over nemesis Martin Ferry and on the road against Harrison Central, where they traditionally struggle.

They also won a share of their first Buckeye 8 crown.

This is a program on the upswing, that showed they belonged in the playoffs this year and will now work to prove they should stay.

"Obviously we want to build off this season," said Connor. "We'll hit the weight room here in about three weeks, and we'll keep trying to move forward."

Along with playmakers Young, Roar and Cummings, the Redskins have a talented group of underclassmen returning to build off the foundation this senior class has laid for them.

"It's a great senior class," said Connor. "I owe them a lot and I'll miss them a lot. They had three straight winning seasons and got us to the playoffs.

"They're great kids and our program owes them a lot."

People should get used to hearing names like Logan Woods, Montel McClelland, Monty McClelland, Frankie Kamarec, Matt Furda, Jake Mamula, Levi Flesher, among others as the Redskins program is loaded with young talent that contributed to this season and are hungry for even more success.