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Poland foe is stranger in semis

There were 12 area teams that made it to Week 11 this season. Now only four remain.

The Poland Bulldogs are one of those teams that moved on after a 31-0 victory over Struthers, the same team they closed the season against.

Bulldogs coach Ryan Williams found the preparation for a back-to-back matchup unique as it’s not a common occurrence in high school football.

“It was an interesting preparation,” Williams said. “As you’re watching film and preparing for the game, you’re watching yourself. Usually when you’re breaking down film on an upcoming opponent, you’re watching another team. It’s kind of weird watching yourself all week long as you prepare.”

In preparation for tonight’s showdown against Indian Creek, Poland was treated to a special practice at the WATTS Center on the campus of Youngstown State University.

“It’s a great facility,” Williams said. “I mean, jeez, what a recruiting tool. It’s unbelieveable.”

Indian Creek has had success this year with scoring, beating its opponents by an average of 24 points and scoring an average of 31 points per game.

Trevor Fante was the leading rusher for Indian Creek, tallying 1,463 yards on the ground and 22 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Sam Mazar was the second leading rusher with 463 yards. Mazar also threw for 658 yards.

Indian Creek is coming off its first playoff win in school history, taking down another Northeast-8 school Hubbard, 35-29.

“They’re a good football team,” Williams said. “They’re very athletic. The quarterback runs well and throws a nice ball. They have decent size. Not the biggest team we’ve seen all year, but there’s some nice players up front. Defensively, the whole team has allowed limited points. They’re aggressive up front.”

On the other hand, Poland’s defense has been a brick wall, limiting opposing offenses to an average of 10 points-per-game. Williams agrees with the old saying that “the best defense is a good offense” because if the other team doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score.

“Our offensive line is our best defense,” Williams said. “If we can keep the ball out of their hands and keep it in our hands, we’re better off.”

Like always, improvement is the main goal for the Bulldogs. Getting to watch film of themselves going into the Struthers game gave the team the opportunity to really see what they needed to work on. The main thing was the simple stuff.

“We’re constantly looking at schemes, footwork, and bringing it back to basics,” Williams said. “The longer the season goes, the more the fundamentals play a part. In week 12, everyone’s a little dinged, a little sore and you’ve got to get healthy and so you’ve got to go back to the basics.”

Poland and Indian Creek square off at Sebo Stadium in Salem, tonight at 7. To Williams, every game at this point is a blessing.

“We’re excited to get back out there,” he said. “Football playoffs are a reward, not everyone makes them. The longer you play, the more fortunate you feel. I feel very blessed to be a part of this group.”

Luckily for the Bulldogs, as long as the season has been, they aren’t sick of each other yet.

“They’ve worked hard, but it’s been a lot of fun and we still enjoy being around each other,” Williams said. “The staff, the kids, we’ve really enjoyed it and hope that we’re able to keep it together as long as we can.”