Martins Ferry thought it had a playoff-caliber team in 2012, but injuries kept the Purple Riders out of the postseason.
However, the bright side was that a lot of sophomores got plenty of playing time, and that maturity, along with some talented senior leadership, helped the Riders overcome every obstacle - except for a Week-4 setback to St. Clairsville - this season in rolling to a 9-1 record and the No. 2 seed in Division V, Region 17.
The Purple Riders will play host to No. 7 seed Westfall (5-5) at 7 on Saturday night.
"This was a goal," Bruney said. "We wanted to play well enough to get into the playoffs and well enough to get a home game. We did both.''
Senior Brian Styles moved to quarterback midway through the season and immediately became the Purple Riders' playmaker, both with his feet and his arm.
Known more for his running abilities, he showed off both last week against Bellaire when he ran for 91 yards, a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. He also threw a 33-yard TD strike to junior wideout Jake Barritt, and found fullback Marcus Sutton down the sideline for 40 yards.
For the season, Styles has accounted for 1,065 yards, with 575 coming on the ground and 363 through the air. He is 21 of 37 (58 percent) with three touchdowns.
The Martins Ferry running attack has been led by sophomore Arjay Burress, who cracked the 1,000-yard mark last week. He totals 1,056 yards on 108 carries and 10 TDs. He is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry (9.8). Sutton (5-8, 177) has gained 599 yards and scored five times. Bruce Burger has run for 413 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As they say, good running backs and quarterbacks are only as good as the offensive line opening the holes or pass protecting.
Seniors along the line are Robert Vargo and Luke Straub. Junior Jonathan Bodkin (5-8, 230) anchors from his center spot, while Straub (6-0, 260) and junior Cody Beavers (6-1, 220) are the guards. The tackles include juniors Brian Sadoski (6-3, 218) and Nick Bain (6-0, 267). Classmate Mark Douglass (5-9, 200) also sees time. Vargo (6-6, 255) is the tight end.
When Martins Ferry does throw, it's usually to Barritt (5-8, 150), Vargo, junior Jack Fitch (5-11, 155) or junior Andrew Watts (5-10, 170). Barritt has a team-best 20 receptions for 223 yards, while Vargo has 14 for 211 and a TD. Fitch has caught six passes for almost 200 yards and two scores. Watts has five catches for 96 yards and a TD. Barritt also has a punt return for a TD.
Defensively, Vargo, Straub, Hondo Palmer and Bruce Burger were some of the names that Bruney cited as being among the leaders on this side of the ball.
Sutton and Burger both charted more than 60 tackles, with Sutton having one more (64-63). Straub has recorded 57 stops, with TJ Jacob at 43 and Palmer at 42.
As far as Westfall, Bruney said it reminds him of Allderdice's size up front coupled with Indian Creek's running backs.
"They are big up front with two good running backs," Bruney said. "Their quarterback also has a strong arm."
The Mustangs, according to Coach Brian Spicer, have been playing playoff football since Week 3 after after an 0-3 start in which they were outscored by an eye-popping 141-30 count.
"We've been watching our region for a while, so we kind of knew if we took care of business where we'd end up and who we would play in the playoffs," Spicer said.
Westfall employs the spread offense with junior Cole Hardin running it in his first year. According to Spicer, Hardin has passed for more than 1,200 yards and has surpassed the 200-yard mark in each of the last two weeks. The running backs are seniors Taylor Salmons, who has run for nearly 1,000 yards this season, and Tommy Staten, who Spicer says surprises people when he gets the ball.
Defensively, the Mustangs lineup in the 3-4.
"We looked at (Westfall) on film all day (Sunday), and they're not in the playoffs by accident," Bruney said. "They're a very good football team."