GIRARD - There's nothing fancy about the Black River Pirates, which is something the Girard Indians will discover in a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal playoff game Saturday at Uniontown Lake High School.
The Pirates prefer to take down opponents with a ground game that features not one but three quality backs. That versatility will place considerable demands on the Indians' defensive line and linebackers.
"They get after it," Girard coach Nick Cochran said. "They have hard-nosed kids. Good quarterback. Their offensive line gets after it. They're a winged-T team. Yeah, they throw it a little bit. They're well-balanced."
There's no doubt which running back will be the target of the Indians' defense. Andrew Vaughn has rushed for close to 1,500 yards.
Complementing Vaughn are running backs Austin Phillips and Jake Sexton. Quarterback Dakota Kuntz makes it all work, and tight end/linebacker John Guilford is a force on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The Pirates will bring a 9-2 record into the game. They advanced out of the quarterfinals with a 49-24 win over Akron Manchester.
The Indians, who led Region 13 in computer points, are 10-1. They had an easy time of it in quarterfinal action, defeating Canton Central Catholic, 35-12.
There wasn't much that Cochran disliked about the way the Indians performed last Saturday. Quarterback Dan Graziano shook off the loss of two fumbles to rush for 111 yards and one touchdown and pass for 165 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Receiver Branden Byrd was the beneficiary of Graziano's passing, hauling in two for 90 yards, including a 65-yard scoring grab. Running back Ahmad Eggleston rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and caught one pass for a 16-yard touchdown.
Coaches never know how teams will respond to playing in the first round of the playoffs. There's added pressure for teams that finished first in their regions.
"Canton Central Catholic is a pretty good football team," Cochran said. "It was nice to get our first-round win."
It's rare when Girard doesn't put up many points, and Black River has shown the ability to score in bunches. On paper this doesn't appear to be a game that will be dominated by the defenses.
"I know they're going to be tough to stop," Cochran said. "Hopefully, we're tough to stop, also. As long as we don't put the ball on the ground and make sure we don't have any turnovers"
There should be no surprise that the Indians advanced beyond the first round and are the only Trumbull County team remaining in the playoffs. Other than a 42-35 loss to Campbell Memorial it's been a relatively easy ride for a team that has outscored the opposition in its wins by an average of 31.7 points.
"We always expect that," Cochran said of a deep run in the playoffs. "I don't care if we don't have any starters returning. That's our goal every year to get far in the playoffs. If anyone tells you anything different, they're probably doing the wrong thing. Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship, and hopefully we can get there."
Each of the top four seeds in Region 13 won last week, including second-seeded Orrville and third-seeded Norwayne. Cochran knows it won't be easy advancing out of the region and to the state semifinals.
"I think our region is pretty good," Cochran said. "Black River has been there before. If Norwayne doesn't get knocked out by Ursuline (the last two years), where do they go? And Orrville is always in there. It's going to be a challenge."