INDIANA — History-making performances have been an all-too-common theme at Indiana. One phrase, however, has not.
“A great night for Indiana football,” coach Brandon Overdorff said Friday after claiming the first winning record of his four-year tenure.
Actually, it was one of a kind.
Indiana Area could do nearly no wrong against visiting Derry Area, tearing apart the new turf at Andy Kuzneski field with 428 rushing yards on its way to a single-game school record for points in a 70-15 victory.
And despite losing starting quarterback Devin Flint because of coronavirus (COVID-19) protocol earlier in the week, the Little Indians wrapped up non-conference play with their second straight win and a 128-42 point differential to take a rare 2-1 record into their WPIAL Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference schedule.
“It’s bittersweet,” Overdorff said. “It really is, because we have some key players that didn’t get to partake in a very special night for our program. We miss those guys, so your heart breaks for them. But at the same time, it was so many guys that stepped up and it was such a great team victory that you’re really happy for the guys that made the plays and were a part of this great victory. It hurts not to have everybody here, but it was a great night.”
The Little Indians will have little time to celebrate with a visit from defending conference champion Plum next on tap Friday. The Mustangs are reeling from a winless non-conference slate, but all three losses were at the hands of Class 5A competition.
For now, though, Indiana Area is embracing the challenge.
“We’re so pumped,” senior running back and cornerback Korbin Wilson said. “These guys are the greatest. We’re definitely more confident now. Plum is definitely going to be a great competition. But we’re going to be ready for them.”
“We are what we are,” Overdorff said. “We just have to look to next week and get ready for Plum, because they are a quality opponent with a ton of athletes who are returning conference champs. So we’ll have our hands full. This is in the rearview now.”
Indiana Area’s offense never missed a beat Friday behind senior Fox Van Leer, a familiar face at quarterback who claimed the starting job in 2019 before multiple injuries all but destroyed his junior season. He spent his little time on the field in 2020 mastering his craft at safety on defense and aimed to do the same in his final year, but he knew there was a need this week that he couldn’t ignore.
Van Leer took the reigns and put the ball where it needed to be as Indiana Area compiled all of his yardage on the ground, including 307 in the first half. And it happened one week after the Little Indians set a program record for rushing yards with 481 during last week’s 44-7 victory at Burrell.
“We had to find someone to step up,” senior running back and safety Zach Herrington said,” and Fox did in his sophomore year. He knew everything that needed to be done and he got it all done. He really stepped up for us.”
“We were really confident all week,” Overdorff said. “Fox, we really haven’t worked him at quarterback much because he’s coming off that injury and he really wanted to just focus on defense. Then we’re down two quarterbacks Tuesday night, and we have come up with something. And Fox is like, ‘I’m you’re guy.’ And he just took everything over. So this calm just came over everybody, me included, coaching staff and the kids. “Here we go. We’re good.’ And that was a big part of it.”
Indiana Area’s win began in familiar fashion, with the Little Indians fumbling away possession on their opening drive.
They then settled in for seven first-half touchdowns and romped to a 49-7 halftime lead, while adding three more scores after the break, capped with senior kicker Brock Miller’s record-tying eighth extra point.
Miller equaled the single-game mark set by Chris Simpson in 2009.
Liam McFarlane, Herrington and Wilson scored a pair of touchdowns apiece before the break.
Wilson, who led Indiana Area with 101 yards on six carries, struck first on a 35-yard run and also scored from 50 yards. Herrington rushed for 100 yards on eight carries while scoring runs of 5 and 1 yards. And McFarlane touched the ball twice, posting touchdown runs of 50 and 35 yards.
Van Leer capped Indiana Area’s first-half total with 21 yards on the ground.
And Indiana Area’s other —usual— full-time defensive player, senior linebacker Jacob McCracken had a 27-yard fumble return for a score.
After the half, sophomore Evan Brocious returned the opening kickoff 90 yards to give Indiana Area a 56-7 lead just before the mercy rule kicked in that forces a continuously running clock.
And lastly, the Little Indians ran one offensive play in each of the third and four quarters: junior Garrison Dougherty’s 37-yard touchdown run and sophomore Trevor Smith’s 84-yard scamper that set up the history-clinching extra point.
The scoring total narrowly bested the program mark set in 2007, a 69-6 win against Albert Gallatin.
“You don’t intend to put that many up, obviously, but it happened,” Overdorff said. “I had no idea. We were trying not to score, to be honest. It was just one of those night where every time you handed the ball off it went for a touchdown. You can’t do anything. You still have to let the junior varsity kids play. And they came out and executed, too.”
For Derry Area (0-3), Eric Catone ran for a 65-yard touchdown in the opening quarter. And Ahmad Ward rushed in from 21 yards out before Catone scored a two-point conversion.
For Indiana Area, it was less about the final score and the record books than it was about potentially finding culmination for years of hard work. Really, it’s about putting an end to mercy-shortened defeats in which the Little Indians found themselves on the opposite side of the scoreboard.
And in years past, there had been plenty.
It’s a start. And Indiana Area knows that’s all it is with the games now taking a much greater significance.
Now the Indians want more.
“The big thing is, our kids are getting more physical,” Overdorff said. “We’re running to the football better and hitting people. And we’re playing a more-disciplined brand of ball. Our kids are starting to really understand the scheme, too.”
“We had a nice little moment with everybody after the game. When you take a job, you have visions of moments and times like that. Hopefully, we got a little momentum and keep building on that and we have more nights like that in Indiana.”