It was anyone’s game at the break.
A back-and-forth first-half battle had left a highly touted Sussex Tech High School football team up only one score on the Henlopen Southern Division’s Indian River, 27-20.
In the second half, however, the Ravens would outlast the Indians, showing how they earned their Top 10 pre-season state ranking and taking advantage of turnovers as they rode the big play to an eventual 48-28 win.
While IR head coach Phil Townsend was disappointed by the loss, he was by no means disappointed in his squad’s performance.
“It says a lot about our guys how well they came out and took on that challenge,” said Townsend. “We had a really good week at practice this week. Coming off that loss [against Linganore] last week, they didn’t dwell on it. They came in Monday and they were ready to work.”
The Indians jumped out to a 7-0 lead just over seven minutes in, when senior running back George “G-Mart” Martin lost his helmet but found the first-down marker, carrying Tech tacklers along the way, then pummeled through the pile yet again for a 20-yard score.
Then, after showing the Ravens some thunder behind their bruising bell cow, the Indians showed off some lightning when senior running back Gerald Foreman broke a 36-yard run to the outside and up the sideline for the score and Andrew White’s extra point made it 14-0.
“We’re gonna be fired up for every game,” said Townsend of the game’s beginning. “I feel like tonight the guys really started to believe in themselves, they started doing their assignments and I think they noticed that we’re getting some success.”
Coming off a seven-touchdown performance against A.I. du Pont, and with his team down two scores, Tech senior running back Isaiah Brown wouldn’t be held at bay much longer, cutting back to the outside and breaking a 55-yard touchdown run nearing the end of the first quarter, to make it 14-7.
“We knew with him, he’s very elusive. He’s very quick to make a cut and go. He’s not the kind of back that’s just going to lower his shoulder and take a hit,” Townsend said of the Ravens’ impact tailback. “We didn’t put our whole defense plan on focusing on him, but we knew what kind of player he was.”
After a fumble gave the Ravens the ball on the IR 10-yard line, Tech junior running back Deshown Sample punched in a goal-line TD two plays later, with a missed extra point making the score 14-13.
Martin was far from finished, however, answering with his second of three touchdowns on the night, this one the IR offensive line clearing a lane and allowing him to jog in untouched.
A blocked extra point would put the Indians up 20-13 before Tech answered with two big plays before the break — the first a 76-yard run from Sample and the second a 36-yard strike through the air from junior QB Tyzhir Morris to senior wide out Noah Jones.
The Indians would fall behind 42-20 by the fourth quarter’s start, but refused to go away, scoring on a two-yard run from Martin, who also tacked on the ensuing two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 42-28 with just over nine minutes and change left in the game, before Brown accounted for the final touchdown of the night on a 32-yard run with 1:26 remaining.
“The attitude of the players this year — it’s special. I’ve never met a group of kids like this. They want to work hard,” Townsend said of his squad’s resiliency. “I was very proud of the kids from start to finish. At halftime, they were just as excited as the beginning of the game. I told them tonight, ‘Let’s have fun.’ And I felt like all night, as a coaching staff and as players, we had a blast tonight.”
Martin finished with 29 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns, with Foreman also eclipsing the 100-yard mark in the game, racking up 117 yards and a score on 13 carries for a 9.0 YPC average.
Martin also completed the Indians’ only pass on the night, on a 51-yard bomb to junior wide out Ja’Vonta Briddell.
Senior linebacker Zion Howard racked up 11 tackles, and senior linebacker Gianni Gottschalk eight in the matchup, and sophomore linebackers Jacob Anderson and Sam Miltner each recorded sacks on Morris.
This Friday, the Indians will look to carry some of the game’s momentum into their home matchup against Cape Henlopen (1-1), while the Ravens will look to stay unbeaten when they travel to Laurel (1-1).
At halftime of the IR/Cape Henlopen game, the Indian River Football Boosters will honor the school’s Blue-Gold alumni, with all past Blue-Gold alumni — players, cheerleaders, ambassadors or buddies — from any year, all encouraged to attend. The game begins at 7 p.m. For live updates, follow @CPointSports on Twitter.