In the midst of a Cape Henlopen High School comeback, Indian River High School junior forward Oscar Cruz found himself with a chance to close the door on the Vikings for good, with the keeper out of position and ball bouncing just in front of the net.
He’d miss out on the chance, sending a shot high the over the crossbar.
Just minutes later, however, Cruz would get some redemption, when senior defender Patrick Mochiam sent a long ball downfield that made its way to senior midfielder Wilberth Gomez and eventually bounced up high in front of the cage. Cruz went up with Cape keeper Alan Marin — that time burying the shot on a well-placed header, to both give the Indians a 5-3 lead and ensure the eventual victory.
“It had some backspin, and I didn’t put my body over it, and I sent it over,” Cruz explained of the earlier chance. The next chance, he said, “was the same thing, Will tried to get a tap in, and then it got a bounce; the keeper came up with me, but I beat him to it.”
While the game would end in theatrics, it didn’t start out that way, with the Indians jumping out to a 4-1 lead before the Vikings narrowed the gap to 4-3 on a Dane Palmer goal in the 65th minute.
“Cape got a couple of goals off set pieces, and we got upside-down for about 12-minutes,” IR head coach Steve Kilby explained of the near comeback. “We struggled. We got it fixed, adjusted the midfield, and started going forward again and got another goal back.”
“We had to pick up that intensity again,” added Cruz. “We obviously stopped doing what we were doing in the first half. We had to get the momentum back.”
Senior midfielder Johan Cordoba had gotten IR on the board first, in the 23rd minute on a header of his own, knocking in a shot from the far post on a long cross-field pass from senior forward Mikie Mochiam.
After junior Zach Gelof had tied the game on a PK, Cordoba would strike again in the 37th minute, putting his squad back up on a direct kick, for his second score of the game and sixth on the season.
Then, at the start of the second half, the Indians would continue their run when Gomez found the net on an assist from Mikie Mochiam, to make it 3-1. Senior defender Andrew White then made for a three-goal advantage after making his way through multiple defenders and sending a top-shelf shot past the keeper from outside the box.
“Oscar was coming in off the corner and passed it across. I just took a touch, then I had a defender in front of me, so I took it around him and just hit my shot,” said White of his first goal of the season and the assist from Cruz.
“When it was 4-1, I thought we were good to go, but then they bounced back with those two goals and it was game-time.”
The momentum started to shift when Gelof was awarded another PK chance that he finished, to cut the lead to 4-2, before Palmer’s 65th-minute score put the Vikings right back in it.
Also a factor in the game was a season-high 12 saves from IR senior keeper Kevin Calles and 13 from Marin.
“We have Kevin in the goal, who I think is an All-Conference, if not All-State, keeper,” said White of Calles’ performance, the two of them helping form an all-senior defense, along with Patrick Mochiam, Max Stong and Arturo Mora Salas.
While the Indians would eventually readjust and regain control of the midfield, the intensity of the North/South rivalry is just how the play typically goes during the matchups between the two geographically-related schools and two blood-related head coaches, as IR head coach Steve Kilby takes on his son and Cape Henlopen head coach, Patrick Kilby. It’s also something that both teams have become accustomed to.
“A lot of the kids know each other and have been playing each other or playing together on different club teams over the years, so I think that’s part of it,” explained Steve Kilby. “It doesn’t matter who the coaches are; it’s always a tough game. The fact that we might be related is something that gets played up.”
“Everything was just physical. Everything was high-pressure. That’s how it normally is, but you just have to come and play for that,” added White.
The win put the Indians at 4-0 on the season, while the Vikings dropped to 4-3-1.
Both teams will move on and tend to their wounds from a physical bout, and there’s a good chance that they’ll see each other again in the Henlopen Conference championship, just as they did in 2015.
“We didn’t like the way it went in the second half, but we walked away with the win,” said Steve Kilby. “All of our objectives are in place, so we’re going to keep going.”
“We’re feeling great about our season,” added White. “We have a nice stretch coming up.”
The Indians were looking this week to make it 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the division when they headed to Seaford on Thursday, Sept. 29, (after Coastal Point press time). They’ll host 4-0 Sussex Central after that, in their first home game since the start of the season, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m.
Goals: IR — J. Cordoba (2), O. Cruz (1), W. Gomez (1), A. White (1); Cape — Z. Gelof (2), D. Palmer (1)
Assists: IR — O. Cruz (2), M. Mochiam (1), P. Mochiam (1); Cape — A. Spoor (1)
Saves: IR — K. Calles (12); Cape — A. Marin (13)