MARTINS FERRY - Purple Rider Stadium at the Dave Bruney Football Complex is a tough place for visiting teams to go into and get a victory.
Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor knows that all too well.
"Since I've been the head coach, we've never won at Martins Ferry," Connor said. "We're making that a point of emphasis and nothing more because that's where our focus needs to be.
"You start with consistency of having Coach Bruney there so you know they're well coached. Every year they do well with the fundamentals of football."
The Purple Riders will be looking to extend that streak Friday night when the Redskins visit for a 7 p.m. kickoff in a game that has crucial OHSAA postseason points on the line.
"We're very happy with where we are, especially with how our younger guys are continuing to improve each week," said Purple Riders' head coach Dave Bruney. "Indian Creek is another solid team and test for us that's very well coached and talented."
The Purple Riders currently find themselves in the Week 11 field, sitting in fifth place in the Division IV, Region 15 computer poll at 5-1. The Redskins, meanwhile, are also 5-1 and find themselves in 10th in a highly competitive Division III, Region 11.
"We're honest with our kids about the postseason," Connor said. "We have aspirations of reaching the postseason again and with four games left, we've got to treat each game the way it should be and that's as the most important game this week.
"It would be crazy to say we don't know about it. Even though it is late in season and there are playoff aspirations for both teams all you can control is the game against Martins Ferry. The goal is to go 1-0 each week and that doesn't change this week."
The teams are extremely similar in how they go about their business. Both stress defense and want to run the ball first and seek to get their athletes in space.
"Indian Creek is a senior-dominated, physical football team," Bruney said. "Their quarterback (Alex Young) is kind of the engine that makes them go. He can certainly make a lot of plays. We hope to keep him from hurting us on broken plays."
Young has been impressive, including last week's victory against Union Local. He accounted for 351 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
Senior Logan Woods is a talented running back for the Redskins and a solid complement to Young.
"Offensively we have to control the clock and to do that we have to run the ball," Connor said.
The Riders' defense has been stout all season with the likes of Sean McGee, Cody Schau and Robert Vargo leading the way. Damon Outward and Bruce Burger produced strong performances in last week's win against Buckeye Local.
"To me, it looks like your normal Martins Ferry defense," Connor said. "They've got good linebackers, they're pretty big up front and they don't give up many big plays. They always seem to have two or three guys around the ball. It's a tough defense."
The Purple Riders' offense is pretty balanced.
Junior quarterback Eric Flowers has continued his development. He's thrown for 694 yards and four touchdowns.
Schau is his favorite target. He's caught an Ohio Valley best 41 balls for 615 yards and six touchdowns. Vargo - at 6-6 - is also an impressive target. He's made 19 receptions for 213 yards.
"The big thing is Martins Ferry runs a lot of plays where they pull linemen," Connor said. "If our linebackers and secondary read their keys it will take them to the ball.
"It will also ensure they read pass plays so we won't give up the big play."
On the ground, the Riders have gone tailback by committee. Brandon Laughman (55-360-6td) and Marcus Sutton (59-333-3td) have been solid. The Purple are hopeful Brian Styles might be able to go this week after missing some time with an injury.
"Ferry does a lot of things out of their formations," Connor said. "They run a lot of different formations to get the matchups they're looking for. I think they're more balanced than in years past.
"We have to stop their running game first though. They pass more then usual, but we have to match up with their rushing game."
The Redskins' defense has been impressive the last couple of weeks, including a shutout of Bellaire in Week 5. Shane Winland is one of the key defensive contributors for the 'Skins.
"I think our defense has played well all year," said Connor. "I feel that will give us at least some momentum to play against their offense. Their offense is well-schooled and they do not make a lot of mistakes.
"This is a big game for our front seven because they'll have to stop their run."