Wednesday, November 03, 1999

Playoffs now reality for Braves

Early prediction by Indian Hill coach comes true

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Indian Hill football coach Kevin Siple doesn't regret a prediction he made this summer.

        “I told the parents, alumni and friends at a golf outing in June that we would be in the playoffs,” Siple said. “Several assistant coaches were critical, but I knew we would be in.”

        The Braves did more than just qualify.

        They finished 9-1 and fourth in the Harbin computer rankings to secure home-field advantage for Saturday's Division IV, Region 12 quarterfinal game against Madeira.

        Though the players never heard Siple's prediction, he heard them talk about it in the weight room through out the summer.

        “This didn't put any pressure on us,” said lineman Ben Katz, one of 15 seniors. “If we didn't make the playoffs, it would have been a major disappointment.”

        The Braves had a rough start to the season. They escaped with a 27-24 double overtime victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in the opener and lost 26-0 to Madeira in Week 3.

        “We started to question ourselves after the CHCA game, but I told the kids we may look back and say that was a huge, huge win,” Siple said. “After the Madeira loss, we were

        down, and there was some more questioning.”

        The Braves went on to defeat Mariemont, Taylor and Finneytown.

        “This was the turning point,” Siple said of the Finneytown win. “Since that game, we've played with a lot of confidence and there has been an attitude change. The kids started believing they could win.”

        Another key factor in the ensuing seven-game winning streak was moving offensive lineman Vic Cole to fullback to shore up the backfield. Cole has rushed 65 times for 365 yards.

        “We didn't make the move early, because we were trying to get (sophomore) Brady Ward ready to take over on the line,” Siple said.

        “Vic is one of our best players, and by moving him to fullback, he's now at the point of attack on every play.”

        Quarterback Vic Janning triggers the offense. He has completed 80 of 144 passes for 1,127 yards while tailback Jeremy Hamilton has scored 10 touchdowns and rushed for 920 yards on 178 carries.

        “We spread the ball around on offense,” Siple said. “We have five receivers who have caught 16 or more passes.”

        The Braves' biggest test came in Week 8 against undefeated and defending CHL champion Wyoming.

        “After we beat Finneytown, we knew we could play with any team in Cincinnati,” Katz said. “Wyoming was ranked No.4 in the state, and after we beat them, we knew we could play with any team.”

        Siple points to Katz and the defense as the key to the success. Katz now holds every school record for sacks and tackles for losses.

        “The defense allows three to six points a game and creates a lot of turnovers,” Siple said.

        Friday, Indian Hill must not only solve Madeira's stingy defense but also the Mustangs' option offense.

        “For us to win, we must find a way to stop their triple option,” Siple said. “Their quarterback, (Tim) Dooley, reads the defense well and makes a lot of good decisions. The tailback, (Eric) Groll, runs hard and is tough to tackle.”

        Katz doesn't look for a repeat of the first meeting against Madeira.

        “They outplayed us the first game,” Katz said. “We're a very close group, and brotherhood is our theme. We're now more aggressive, and everyone thinks we can win the state championship.”

        The winner of Saturday's game will play the winner of the Wyoming-Ironton game at a site to be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.


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