IR football caps season with loss to playoff-bound Golden Knights

Coastal Point photos • Shaun M. Lambert: IR freshman cornerback Kevin Custis breaks up a pass from Central senior quarterback Brady Bowden to senior wide out Mark Tolson.Coastal Point photos • Shaun M. Lambert: IR freshman cornerback Kevin Custis breaks up a pass from Central senior quarterback Brady Bowden to senior wide out Mark Tolson.For two teams in the same school district, the Indian River and Sussex Central High School football teams are having very different years. That difference was on display when the young and rebuilding Indians took on the seasoned Golden Knights on Friday, Nov. 11, with the Knights coasting to a 54-21 victory.

“They’re having a big year. We were playing a really good team, and we knew that coming into this,” said IR head coach Phill Townsend after the game.

“The good thing is our guys never gave up. That’s the thing about this team, is they never gave up all season — they always played through the whistle. You can’t coach that.”

It was all Central early on, when after recovering the opening kickoff, senior running back John Morris punched it in from 3 yards out to seal the opening drive and put the Knights up 7-0.

Senior fullback Kendrique Nocks scored on an 8-yard run on the next drive, and Morris added his second touchdown of the night on a 46-yard interception return just minutes later, to make it 20-0.

Coastal Point photos • Shaun M. Lambert

Central senior QB Brady Bowden got in on the action on a 10-yard bootleg, to make it 27-0 still in the first quarter, but IR senior running back George “G-Mart” Martin finally got the Indians on the board to start the second quarter when he ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run up the sideline — making him the Indians’ first 1,000-yard rusher since KiAnté Sturgis in 2013.

“It says a lot about his work ethic this summer. He put in the work and it paid off,” said Townsend of Martin’s production this season. “I give a lot of credit to [offensive line] Coach [Bob] Hahn and the line. I think they did a phenomenal job this year.”

Another rushing touchdown from Morris and a 13-yard score from senior running back Justin Jones put the Knights up 41-7 before the half, but the Indians continued to battle both a stout defense and running clock after the break.

They’d finish with two more touchdowns, the first when Martin broke a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and the second when senior running back Gerald Foreman scored from 8 yards out with just 13 seconds left on the clock.

“It was nice to see Gerald finish the season with a touchdown,” said Townsend of Foreman ending his career with 11 carries for 58 yards and the late score on top of a 39-yard reception from sophomore QB Ian Shaner.

Notably, senior kicker Andrew White went 3-3 on extra point attempts, finishing the season a perfect 20-20 on extra points and 1-1 on field goal attempts.

Senior linebacker Zion Howard again led the team in tackles, finishing the game with 13, senior safety Jared Arlett racked up seven solo tackles, and senior linebacker Gianni Gottschalk and senior defensive end Griffin McCormick each finished the game with five.

The loss dropped the Indians to 2-8 on the season after starting their 2016 campaign with high hopes for a Henlopen South title, while the Golden Knights finished 7-3 and earned the No. 6 seed in the upcoming DIAA tournament.

While the overall record was a disappointment for Townsend and his squad, he said he’s encouraged by a promising future after seeing five freshmen get the start in 2016, including freshman quarterback Jalen Snead under center.

“I think the future is real bright,” he said. “The weight room has been full of freshmen and sophomores the past two years. We’ll miss the senior playmakers — we’ll miss the Geralds and the Georges — but someone else is going to have to step up.”

As for the Golden Knights, they’ll look to upset No. 3 William Penn (9-1) when the two teams face off on Saturday, Nov. 19. That game is scheduled to get under way at 1 p.m., at William Penn High School in New Castle.

IR game stats:

Rushing: G. Martin (17 carries, 143 yards, 2 TD); G. Foreman (11 carries, 58 yards, TD); K. Custis (1 carry, 5 yards)
Passing: J. Snead (1-3, 6 yards); I. Shaner (1-2, 39 yards)
Receiving: G. Foreman (1 reception, 39 yards); G. Gottschalk (1 reception, 6 yards)

Tackles: Z. Howard (13); J. Arlett (7); G. Gottschalk (5); G. McCormick (5); G. Foreman (4); G. Martin (4); J. Ciriello (3); M. McGee (3); S. Miltner (3); Z. Schultz (3); K. Custis (2); Ja. Anderson (1); M. Cedano (1)
Kicking: A. White (3-3, XP)
Punting: A. White (3 punts, 30 yard avg.)