WINTERSVILLE - An interception return, a hustle play, and a goal-line stand keyed Indian Creek's 30-16 victory against Buckeye Local on Friday at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium.
With the Redskins leading 15-8, the Panthers found themselves with a first-and-goal after a bad snap on a punt gave them the ball at the 8 with 7 seconds left in the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth quarter, third-and-goal from the 5, Indian Creek's Tyler Lathem stepped in front of a Chase Hopkins pass at the goal line and raced 100 yards for a score. Blake Roar punched in the 2-point conversion, and the Redskins led 23-8, and cruised from there.
"It was big," Indian Creek coach Andrew Connor said. "Any time your defense can step up and make a big play then turn it into points, it's big. I thought defensively we played well. They gave up the one score until late. Obviously it was a big stand for us because we had turned them away a couple times, we had the goal-line stand, and then the pick six when they were down there again.
"Those are big moments in a game, and I think our defense rose to those moments."
Another stand came at the end of the first half. The Panthers drove 52 yards in nine plays, setting up a fourth-and-1 from the 2 with 3 seconds remaining. The Redskins defense stopped Devin Pyciak at the 1-yard line to maintain a 15-8 lead.
"We came out and answered the bell I thought, but turnovers are just killing us," Buckeye Local coach Phil Pest said. "We had a couple chances to go ahead or tie the game, and we're our own worst enemy sometimes. I'm proud of the kids' effort, but we just came up short.''
Zach Cole came up with the hustle play for the Redskins at the start of the third quarter. Buckeye Local's Brandon Panepucci took the second half kickoff, bounced outside, and raced down the visitors sideline seemingly destined for the end zone. Cole stuck with the play, ran down Panepucci, and pulled him down at the Redskins' 24 after a 61-yard return.
That play proved big as the Panthers threw four straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.
"Those are the plays you have to make," Connor said. "If you're going to be a good football team you need kids to go to the whistle. That's something we preach here. Zach Cole is our safety, and he did a good job running him down. It was a big play because then we hold them.
The Redskins started the scoring on the game's opening possession. On the fifth play, Lathem busted loose for a 48-yard score. He also added the 2-point conversion to make the score 8-0 Indian Creek.
After the teams exchanged stops, Roar put on a show on the last play of the first quarter. Taking the ball at his own 16, Roar spun through and over Buckeye Local tacklers on his way to an 84-yard score.
The Panthers Got on the board with their air attack. On second-and-10 from the Indian Creek 42, Hopkins hit Eric Banal in stride, and he took it in for the touchdown. Hopkins then hit Jared Moore for the 2-point conversion and scoreboard read 15-8.
That's where the game stood when Lathem took the interception to the house, and Indian Creek then took a 30-8 lead behind the running of Michael Puorro.
The Panthers put the final score on the board helped by a pass interference call, and set up by a 31-yard completion from Hopkins to Panepucci, Buckeye Local scored on a 3-yard Pyciak run. Hopkins hit Panepucci for the 2-point conversion to put the final score at 30-16 Redskins.
The Redskins offense consisted mainly of a rushing attack that accounted for 349 yards on 48 plays. Puorro led the team with 124 yards on 12 carries with one score. Roar had 113 yards on 13 touches with a score. Lathem had four carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.
"You need guys to step up," Connor said. "Michael (Puorro) was one of those kids. He did a good job when we called his number behind Jonathan Dailey, our backup fullback.
"It gave Blake (Roar) and Zach (Connor) a rest. That's what you need to do, you need to develop depth."
Hopkins led the Panthers, completing 12 for 30 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Banal caught three passes for 65 yards and a score. Panepucci had two grabs for 69 yards.