Jacob Anderson set the tone early, when he returned the opening kickoff 85 yards and all the way to the house for a score.
That put the Indian River High School football team up 7-0 on undefeated Milford.
But the Bucs would bounce back and set their own tone on their own ensuing drive on Oct. 14, when senior fullback Dominyc Hovington found the end zone on a 16-yard run, the two-point conversion giving Milford an 8-7 lead that they would never relinquish on their way to a 52-15 Homecoming win and 6-0 start to the season.
While the Indians dropped to 2-4 overall on the season, at 2-1 in the Henlopen South and with three division matchups left to go, their playoff hopes are far from foiled.
“After we ran that kick back, I thought we were going to respond and keep them back, but we gave up too many big plays. We didn’t respond when we needed to,” said IR head coach Phil Townsend after the game.
“We’re still sitting pretty good. We just have to keep our heads up, get everybody healthy, and come out Monday ready to practice and get ready for the Woodbridge game.”
After Anderson’s first career touchdown return, IR was kept off the board last Friday until midway through the second quarter, when senior safety Jared Arlett pulled down Milford quarterback Tripp Kimmel for a safety.
Ablett would go on to record seven tackles, but the Bucs would push the lead to 30-9 before the half when senior Christopher Sampson returned an interception 90 yards for a score, with 1:03 left before the break.
The Indians would only manage to the light the scoreboard up one more time in the second half, that time on a 55-yard run up the gut by senior running back George “G-Mart” Martin.
Martin finished the night with 19 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown, on pace for 1,000 yards rushing this season, with 606 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
Junior Brandon Hoffman got the start under center, going 3-16 for 51 yards, two of those completions going to Martin for 23 yards, and one of them to junior wide out Ja’Vonta Briddell for 28 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Joey Ciriello led the squad with 11 tackles and two sacks, putting pressure on Kimmel throughout the night, while Anderson notched five tackles and a fourth-quarter interception. Senior linebacker Zion Howard finished with nine tackles.
Not only did the Indians have to contest with an amped-up Milford squad for what was the Buccaneers’ Homecoming, but they also had to deal with string of minor injuries keeping starters, including senior linebacker Gianni Gottschalk, freshman quarterback Jalen Snead, freshman running back Kevin Custis and senior punter Mac Smith, among others, out for the game.
“It hurt us a little bit,” Townsend said of the banged-up roster. “We only had a couple days to get some of these [underclassmen] ready for this type of game. We’re a young team. A lot of these guys aren’t used to it when things get tough.”
While Townsend said eh hopes to have several of those players back this Friday, when the Indians face another tough division test against 6-0 Woodbridge, he also said that how his team responds to the loss will be key in keeping their playoff hopes alive.
“We’ll see how they come out Monday. I know I’ll be ready to go and get back to work. The season’s not over,” he said.
“Woodbridge is gonna be a tough game. We’ve gotta be 100 percent healthy and flawless to beat those guys. We can’t make mistakes on offense, defense and special teams.”
That game is set for 7 p.m. at Indian River High School’s football stadium for what will, this time, be the Indians’ Homecoming.
“We’d like to see as much support as possible. It’s gonna be a big game in the South,” said Townsend. “They’re 3-0, we’re 2-1. It could really dictate the division if we upset them and get a win.”
IR game stats:
Rushing: G. Martin (19 carries, 111 yards, TD); Ja. Anderson (7 carries, 26 yards); G. Foreman (5 carries, 8 yards)
Passing: B. Hoffman (3-16, 51 yards)
Receiving: G. Martin (2 receptions, 23 yards); J. Briddell (1 reception, 28 yards)
Tackles: J. Ciriello (11); Z. Howard (9); J. Arlett (7); S. Miltner (6); Ja. Anderson (5); G. Foreman (5); J. Morris (5); T. Moore (3); Ram. Turner (2); G. Martin (2); C. Tull (2); J. Briddell (1); Z. Schultz (1)
Sacks: J. Ciriello (2)
INT: Ja. Anderson (1)
Return TD: Ja. Anderson (1, 85 yards)