Prior to the season, Indian Creek football coach Mike Gillin had the word “Finish” printed on all practice T-shirts as a reminder to the Braves.
The Braves took the reminder to heart against Johnson County rival Greenwood on Saturday night as part of the Lucas Oil Stadium Showcase. And they couldn’t have finished any better.
Senior kicker Dylan Walker’s 31-yard field goal with no time left lifted the Class 3A Braves to a thrilling 15-14 victory against the Class 4A Woodmen.
“What an up-and-down game,” a visibly drained Gillin said. “Last year we had trouble finishing games like this. I told the guys we need to finish these type of games when we’re ahead, tied or behind like (tonight).
“This is exactly what we needed.”
That, and a running into the kicker penalty.
Seconds earlier, Walker tried what would have have been a 26-yard attempt, but missed wide right. However, a Greenwood defender just touched Walker, prompting a running into the kicker penalty.
Walker was ready to to try a 21-yarder but was iced by his own team with two straight false-start penalties.
Undaunted, Walker coolly kicked the ball through for the win — the Braves’ first against Greenwood since 2009.
Afterwards, Walker was coy about the first penalty.
“It really wasn’t that bad,” Walker said. “The (defender) barely touched me, but I’ll take that.”
Greenwood (1-1) coach Mike Campbell agreed but didn’t cite that as the sole cause of the Woodmen’s loss.
“We played hard, (Indian Creek) played hard,” Campbell said of the showcase’s final game. “We lost a tough game, and there was not a lot of contact on that kick, but we have to live with the result.”
Walker said the consecutive penalties didn’t bother him, but instead gave him a better angle to make the kick. He recalled being in a similar situation at last year’s sectional.
“I did feel quite a bit of pressure, but I remember last year’s (sectional) game against Batesville where I made the winning kick,” he said.
Gillin also admitted he was less his concerned about Indian Creek’s penalties than he was the Woodmen’s pressure.
Earlier, they had blocked Walker’s extra point.
“Dylan makes those kinds of kicks in practice so I wasn’t worried about that,” Gillin said.
Gillin really didn’t have much reason to worry at the start of the game.
Indian Creek (2-0) opened up with some trickery when senior running back Dokken Egenolf took a pitch and then threw a 35-yard pass to senior Jake McGowan. Seven plays later, Egenolf ran in from four yards out to give the Braves a 6-0 lead.
Greenwood answered with a 62-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Skeel to Jackson Daugherty.
A short time later, Indian Creek took the lead again on a 2-yard run by Egenolf. The Braves led 12-7 at halftime.
Greenwood opened the second half with a methodical drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by junior running back John Gallman, giving the Woodmen a 14-12 advantage.
But that was it for Greenwood’s scoring, as defense played a major role for both teams. The Woodmen recovered three Indian Creek fumbles, and the Braves recovered two Greenwood fumbles.
Indian Creek began the game-winning drive on their own 32 and tallied 56 yards on three straight completions by junior quarterback Gynson Robley that took the Braves to the Woodmen 12.
Six plays and three penalties later, Walker booted the game-winner.
Robley threw for 266 yards. Greenwood senior quarterback Tanner Skeel completed 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. He was also the leading ground gainer, rushing for 74 yards.
The win was the second for Indian Creek in this series and the first over the Woodmen since 2009.
“It’s huge, that’s for sure,” Gillin said. “This is good for our program. Beating a 4A team is awesome, but we didn’t play well at times and did in others, as did (Greenwood).
“Now that we finished this game, we’ll need to finish Eastern Hancock, whom we had a huge lead on, but they came back to beat us.”
Indian Creek travels to Class Eastern Hancock on Friday night. The Woodmen host Class 5A Martinsville on Friday.