Anything can happen when a full moon is showing, and on the eve of the full moon on Sept. 16 Indian River scored 19 unanswered points to defeat Stephen Decatur in their home opener. Big plays, a prepared defense and a punishing ground attack squelched the Bayside perennial powerhouse, but it wasn’t without a cost.
Though they improved their record to 2-0, Indian River will have to play Washington High School without their head coach, Jim Bunting, and offensive lineman/linebacker Ty Jennings — because of their ejections against the Seahawks.
Jennings and Seahawk interior lineman Kyle Sappington exchanged words and mixed it up more than the officials liked, so they were ejected — which sent Bunting into a frenzy.
Bunting apologized to his team Sept. 19 at practice and explained that he would go to war for or with any of his players but didn’t want them to follow his example.
“I’m terribly embarrassed, and it’s a black eye for the program, but you have to learn from your mistakes,” said Bunting.
The ejection came prior to halftime and Stephen Decatur had already taken a 7-0 lead on a Brian Tustin 23-yard interception return for a touchdown. Indian River was able to move the ball but failed to punch the ball into the endzone twice.
Wide receiver Andy Bokinsky made up for the week before and made two nice must-have snags on third and fourth downs to keep drives going, but Indian River was unable to capitalize on field position.
Josh Dean made a great leaping catch in between three Stephen Decatur defenders that was good for 44 yards. Indian River would eventually turn the ball over on downs.
Bunting said his team would practice red-zone situations all week prior to the Washington game on Sept. 23 and that they’d be ready to punch it in after sustaining long drives.
“I want 2, 2 and 1 in the red zone,” said Bunting of what he expects his running backs to get inside the 5-yard line. “I want my linemen to give me a lean and I don’t want my running backs to dance in the hole or lose yardage for any reason.”
“This week we’re working on doing your own job,” said Bunting. “We reiterated that at halftime of the Stephen Decatur game and we had players respond.”
Free safety Nik Kmetz laid a big hit on DeAndre Gordon on second and long, which set up Indian River for another pass-rushing situation. Defensive linemen Philip Townsend and Brian Lynch combined for the sack on the next play, which set up a fourth and a very long punt situation.
Lynch and Townsend spearheaded a relentless Indian defensive attack that accrued four sacks and limited star running back Kendall Harmon to 35 yards on 15 carries.
“He’s (Harmon) the real deal,” said Bunting. “He has all the physical tools.”
“As a defensive lineman, you want to be nasty and go full-tilt,” said Lynch. “We made plays because we were able to do that.”
“Defensively, we were very prepared,” said Bunting. “We knew that there were certain formations where we knew where No. 33 (Harmon) would go. It had to be frustrating for the offense to hear our defense call out their plays.”
Indian River’s defense kept the game close. Their offense was waiting to bust loose and did on three Josh Gott scampers.
After carrying the ball only six times against Cape Henlopen, Gott approached Bunting and his staff and requested more carries.
“What was amazing is that he came to us,” said Bunting. “He said he needed to have the ball more to get going and you have to commend any player that is willing to step up and take one for the team. He asked for the ball and we gave him it.”
Gott received the lion’s share of the carries by toting the ball 19 times for 196 yards. He scored on 2-, 35- and 40-yard runs, but it was his pulling lineman Townsend that popped the final touchdown free.
Townsend scurried around the left end with the speed of a tailback to clear the way for Gott. Townsend destroyed the first defender he saw, which allowed Gott to go untouched for Indian River’s final touchdown.
Indian River will host Washington High School on Sept. 23 for a 7 p.m. game.