The last time an Indian River High School running back pulled it off, George Martin was a freshman, watching from the sidelines when former IR tailback KiAnté Sturgis eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2013.
Coming up through the program at Selbyville Middle School, Martin had seen Sturgis and 2013 IRHS grads Aaron Moore and Marquel Knight set the standard for what’s historically been a dominant rushing program at IR, with feature backs racking up 1,000-yard seasons year in and year out.
But it wasn’t until last Friday that “G-Mart” helped restore that tradition, when he ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run against Sussex Central to become the first player to break the barrier in three seasons.
“It was actually kind of funny — after that run, I hadn’t even been thinking about 1,000 yards,” Martin said. “I think Coach [Phil] Townsend came up to me while I was on a knee on the sidelines and told me. It didn’t really set in until after the game.”
After capping the game with 17 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns, Martin capped his senior season with a total 196 carries for 1,114 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He also completed three of four passes this season, for 105 yards, returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown and hauled in three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown, while still contributing at safety on defense.
The performance was enough to be named First-Team All Henlopen South at fullback, with DIAA All-State accolades and DRFC Blue-Gold All Star nominations yet to be announced.
But despite all of the individual achievements, admittedly, the Indians’ bell-cow back would trade it all in for a shot at the playoffs, after the team fell short of that goal and finished 2-8 this season.
“After the run it was cool, but I was just thinking, ‘We scored — let’s go, let’s get this team, we got this,’” Martin explained. “Every game, our biggest focus was winning. That’s what we talked about. I would have rather have gone to the playoffs than had a 2,000-yard season this year.”
He went on to explain that, while returning the South title to IR was the main focus, rushing for 1,000 yards was far from an individual achievement.
“It was an accomplishment, I felt like, for our team, rather than just myself. You can’t rush for 1,000 yards on your own,” he said. “I think that it’s something that the offensive line should be really proud of. There’s just no way that happens without them.”
Throughout the season, the offensive line of seniors Griffin McCormick, Michael Cedano and Zion Howard, and juniors Cortez Tull, Michael Corcoran and, at the end of the season, Colin Donaway, paved the way for not only big runs from Martin, but for senior running back Gerald Foreman as well.
Foreman was the lightning to Martin’s thunder, finishing the season with 567 yards rushing and six total touchdowns, while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Along with sophomore fullback Jacob Anderson and freshman running back Kevin Custis, Martin said the versatile backfield was a major factor in his own production.
“At times, we saw defenses stack the box with eight or nine guys,” he explained. “We probably lose that Laurel game without Gerald,” he noted of Foreman. “Gerald’s ability to spread a defense and beat them with speed is something you can’t necessarily do with one guy — you need to have those other playmakers.”
After starting off competing for the same spot as seventh-graders at SMS, Martin and Foreman developed their friendship through football, and eventually learned to not only drive each other in practice, but to complement each other’s skillsets in games.
When Martin began to take the lion’s share of the carries at fullback and dial back defensive snaps at safety, despite an All-Conference season on defense in 2015, Foreman fully embraced his role as a defensive leader — earning himself All-Conference honors as a running back as well.
“Our friendship really grew through football. We’ve always fed off of each other,” Martin said. “As I was starting to get more of the carries, he really bought into defense and the cornerback spot and taking pride in that. This team is all about finding guys that can compete together, rather than against each other.”
While Tull and Howard were the only offensive lineman to earn All-Conference honors this season on the right side, it was on the left side of the line, with McCormick at tackle and Cedano at guard, that Martin frequently found success — especially during a 200-yard, four-touchdown performance against Delmar and 186-yard, three-touchdown breakout game against Sussex Tech.
“On that left side of the line, Griff and Cedano got the job done. There were a lot of plays that I look back on, thinking ‘37-Belly — that’s the play we need to go to right now.’ I remember that whole Tech game and most of Delmar we kept pounding that left side,” he said.
“I think all of them played a really important role on that offensive line, and I think every single one of them should have gotten an All-Conference selection.”
Also a standout on the lacrosse field, Martin and the rest of the lacrosse-playing seniors will get a shot at their Henlopen South title this spring, when even Foreman and senior Jared Arlett planning on joining the squad as newcomers, getting the band bak together for one last rodeo.
But as for the end of their high school football careers, despite the disappointing record, they'll still be able to look back and smile.
“Those last couple of games, we had to go all-out — we didn’t want to have any regrets. We wanted to be able to look back and say, ‘I enjoyed my senior year. I’m glad I didn’t put my head down. I’m glad I didn’t quit,’” Martin said.
“I’ve learned lessons through football that I couldn’t have learned any other way. The camaraderie between teammates and friendships that I’ve made — you don’t get that anywhere else. It was a tough year, as far as wins and losses, but we had a lot of fun. And a lot of these guys are playing lacrosse, so we’re happy because it’s not quite the end yet.”
'G-Mart' season stats:
Rush yards: 1,114