By Adam Wire
For the Daily Journal

INDIANAPOLIS — Given the tumultuous nature of the Indian Creek football team’s last few weeks, the Braves could be forgiven for celebrating Friday’s first-round sectional victory a little more than usual.

The Braves, less than three weeks removed from losing head coach Steve Spinks to resignation, followed that up with back-to-back shutout losses. They took their frustrations out on host Indianapolis Washington on Friday, scoring a season-high point total en route to a 36-18 win.

The victory pushes Indian Creek (3-7) into next Friday’s Class 3A semifinal, when it will host fourth-ranked Danville. The Warriors defeated Greencastle 41-7 in their first-round matchup.

Braves players jumped together and celebrated near their sideline exuberantly at game’s end, but it’s fair to say they earned it.

“It’s outstanding knowing how hard we’ve worked day in and day out to overcome the adversity,” said Indian Creek senior running back Brandon Murray, whose 126 yards on just nine carries led everyone. “We’ve worked to perfect this offense, and to see it work, it’s just outstanding.”

Dan Rector took over the head-coaching reins with two games remaining in the regular season, but the Braves ended the regular season with consecutive shutout losses. The offense sputtered early Friday, scoring seven points in the game’s first 20 minutes, but came on strong after halftime with 21 third-quarter points.

“This is really a testament to our kids and how they stuck with each other and kept believing in each other,” Rector said. “We shifted gears a little bit offensively, so we went into the Sullivan game with three practices under our belt, then Northview with seven practices under that scheme. The kids are putting that time in in practice, and it showed.”

Nine different backs carried the ball for the Braves, combining for 228 yards. Jalen Sauer, Sam Creek and Aidan Neathery each collected touchdown runs for Indian Creek. Neathery, who threw for 70 yards and ran for 35, also connected with Lance Butler for a 19-yard touchdown pass.

“The fly offense really depends upon misdirection, and we really depend upon running the ball with power and deception,” Rector said. “To deceive people, they’ve got to believe you could give it to anybody and any one of those options can be effective.”

The game’s most critical touchdown drive might have come in the third quarter. Murray lost a fumble that gave the Continentals the ball at the Braves’ 44-yard line, and Washington took advantage immediately with a touchdown pass on the next play.

Murray responded with a 58-yard run on IC’s second play from scrimmage on the next drive, then followed that up two plays later with a 6-yard touchdown run. That extended the Braves’ lead to 22-12, and Washington didn’t score again until a garbage-time touchdown with 6.5 seconds to play.

“I knew I made a mistake the drive before, and I knew I had to fix it,” Murray said. “I just trusted my O-line. They got me in the end zone.”

Meanwhile, the Braves’ defense allowed just five first downs, intercepted a pass (Denton Steenbergen) and collected six sacks. They also allowed only 17 rushing yards and 87 yards overall.

“I was very proud of our offensive and defensive lines,” Rector said. “Washington had trouble running against us, and there were drives when we just ran quarterback sneaks. The line play on both sides was critical.”