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Creek eyes home playoff game, while Huskies eye another major upset

CHASING DOWN — Indian Creek’s Tyler Smarrella and Matt Schaefer chase Indian Valley’s Ty Myers on Sept. 13. - Joe Catullo

CADIZ — A rivalry renewed.

That’s exactly what will happen Friday evening at Wagner Field. For the first time since the 2015 season, the Harrison Central Huskies and Indian Creek Redskins will meet on the football field.

“It was a highly competitive and contested series, especially during the last six years before we took a couple of years off,” Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor said.

Connor isn’t just giving coach speak either. In the 10 prior meetings between the two, the Redskins have won six of the games, including the last meeting, 29-22.

“This is a game that’s good for both schools and communities,” Harrison Central head coach Anthony Hayes said. “We play each other in basically every other sport, and it’s a good opportunity for a good gate for both schools.”

While the historical side of the rivalry will draw attention, both coaches are actually dialed in strictly to the 2019 meeting, which finds a 7-1 Redskins squad and a 3-4 Huskies outfit.

“We tell our kids all the time to respect the game and that both sides are working hard all week to win a game, so you can’t afford to take anyone for granted,” Connor said.

Creek has won five in a row since its one-point loss to Indian Valley. The Redskins find themselves currently sitting in second place in the Division IV, Region 13 playoff chase.

Harrison Central, meanwhile, has seemingly turned the corner. The Huskies have won two of their last three, and that loss was a 26-21 setback to undefeated Oak Glen last week. The Huskies, though mathematically alive, would need a victory this week and plenty of help to extend its season into Week 11.

“We’ve become more consistent, and it’s never too late to get that way,” Hayes said. “Injuries took a toll on us and we’re starting to heal up. The biggest thing is our consistency on both sides of the ball.”

Included in the Huskies’ recent string of success was an impressive victory at St. Clairsville in Week 6. That came one week after Creek kicked a walk-off field goal to defeat the Red Devils, 13-10.

“All you have to look at is how well they’ve played in the last three games,” Connor said. “They’re playing their best ball of the season right now. They were able to keep the ship righted during a difficult schedule early and didn’t lose to anyone who isn’t currently in the playoff hunt. You have to give them credit for how they rebounded.”

The Huskies will have to find a way to solve a Creek defense that has been lights out. All told, the Redskins have yielded just 60 points for the season.

“They’re big and good,” Hayes said of the Redskins’ defense. “They’re solid on the back end and don’t give up a lot deep, and they’re really sound up front. They believe their front seven is better than yours, and it causes some people to panic. We have to be patient offensively and try to dictate the pace.”

The Huskies will lean on junior quarterback Kobe Mitchell, who is having another impressive season. He’s thrown for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns. His top targets are Cale McAfee (22-314-5TDs) and Trevor Carman (21-345-4TDs).

McAfee also is the Huskies’ leading rusher with 344 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries.

“We can’t let (Mitchell) get into a rhythm,” Connor said. “We have to keep in the pocket and not allow him to extend plays and freelance as an athlete. We want to pressure him and make him get the ball out as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Redskins’ offense has been balanced and productive, scoring nearly 28 points a game. A bulk of their work comes through the ground game.

Senior tailback Trevor Fante is having an exceptional season and is primed to surpass the 1,000-yard barrier. He comes into this week just 74 yards shy of a grand. He also has scored 15 touchdowns.

“(Fante) is without question the leader of their offense,” Hayes said. “As he goes, they go. He’s big, strong and one of the better players in the valley.”

Though knowing his Huskies must contain Fante, Hayes also is cognizant of quarterback Sam Mazur, who has been steady. He’s thrown for 568 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 369 and six touchdowns on the ground. His favorite receiver has been Brandon Fleming, who also is a threat as a ball carrier.

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