As the defending Western Indiana Conference champions, the Indian Creek Braves already pose a target for hungry league rivals. But coach Steve Spinks and his team proved up to their first WIC test on Friday night, holding on for a 20-15 road victory against Owen Valley
The Braves (2-1, 1-0) put themselves in a favorable position with a 14-3 first half that was much more difficult than the scoreboard might have indicated. Indian Creek came up with a pair of Aidan Neathery touchdown passes on its two full clock possessions in the first half. Meanwhile, the Indian Creek defense held up against 16-play and 15-play drives by Owen Valley, yielding a lone field goal.
Spinks appeared pleased to drive home with a victory in hand.
"We got into a street fight, and Owen Valley took it to us first," Spinks said. "We were able to capitalize on the few mistakes they made, and we counterpunched and held on to get the win."
Neathery and his receivers gave Indian Creek just enough scoring on big plays, enabling the Braves to counter the high efficiency passing of Patriots quarterback Brody Lester (16 of 18 passes for 183 yards) and power rushing of Christian McDonald (100 yards on 25 carries). Neathery finished the night with three touchdown passes while throwing for 154 yards in the game. He completed just two passes in the first half, but put the Braves into the end zone on each.
The first scoring catch really came thanks to the recovery effort made by receiver Sam Creek, who made a correction on an underthrown ball. Creek won a duel for the football with Owen Valley defender Keaton Hunter to complete a 58-yard play.
But Neathery came up big on his second completion, a 26-yard touchdown to Connor Fruits, picked up in a fourth-and-long situation.
Owen Valley, which dominated the time of possession, was not giving up easily.
A determined Patriots offense made things close in the second half under the controls of Lester, who hit a 40-yard pass to Christopher Zellstra to get into Creek territory. McDonald then got the Patriots close enough for Lester to crack the end zone on a 1-yard sneak.
“Owen Valley was fired up,” Spinks said. “Coach Duane Potts is really building something and probably not getting enough credit. Owen Valley is coming as a football team.”
But Indian Creek made just one more big play, a 57-yard bubble screen pass from Neathery to Jordan Gorham, to give itself some breathing room and a 20-9 edge early in the final quarter.
The Patriots had to punt on their next possession, and Indian Creek ate up much of the fourth quarter clock utilizing Fruits carrying the ball before turning the possession back late.
Owen Valley was able to get another score on a 4-yard completion from Lester to James Hendrickson, but time ran short on the Patriots as that came with just 49 seconds remaining.
“We did what we needed to do,” Spinks said. “That was a tough win on the road. Our kids are tough — we did not quit tonight, and that was a testament to our team.”