A week after their 21-20 surprise season opener victory over Caravel Academy in the Blue/Gold Kickoff Classic, Indian River’s varsity football found themselves 39-21 prey to the Polytech Panthers last Friday at home. The Panthers’ special teams scooped up the opening kick off and returned it to the Indians end zone. A swift extra point kick gave the Panthers an early 7-0 lead.
IR’s punt return team quickly answered with their own punt return and kick, tying it seven all with 7:59 minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Panthers’ punt-return team got them to mid-field for the start of a tie-breaking drive that ended with senior wide receiver Douglas Reed grabbing a pass near the end zone that he carried across the goal line. The extra point kick split the goal posts giving the Panthers a 14-7 lead.
The Panther offense got another six points, but missed the point-after kick. With 6:50 remaining in the first half, IR scored on another punt return and point after, making it 20-14 Panthers — where it stayed until the first half expired.
The Indians returned to the field fired up, returning the Panther’s second-half opening kick to Polly Tech’s 40-yard line. From there it took two plays for the Indian offense to reach the end zone. Junior quarterback Ian Shaner got the ball to junior running back Reshawn Turner, who scampered down the sideline. The point after kick sailed through the uprights giving IR a narrow 21-20 lead with 10:57 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
On their next drive the Panthers went from their 20-yard line to the Indians goal line. Their conversion attempt failed, but the TD put them back in the lead, 26-21.
Their ensuing drive took the Panthers within a few feet of goal. From there a quarterback sneak play extended their lead 32-21. With 1:28 minutes remaining the Panthers scored again and added an extra point, for a final 39-21 Panther victory.
“They’re (the Panthers) a Division 1 program, they’re up and coming. They had a down season last year and they’re hungry to win. We came into the game, I felt like we were ready to go, but they (the Panthers) set the tone right away with that first kickoff they ran back on us,” concluded IR Head Coach Phillip Townsend. “They set the tone early and didn’t quit. They kept going. I had a lot of injuries tonight that really hurt my offense. Jacob Anderson (junior running back) is out for the season now and Kevin Custis (sophomore running back) was limited tonight, so a lot of my offensive guys — my third-string and my fourth-string running backs were banged up. We had a tough game last week. Coming into this game we knew we had a tough game. We’d hoped to limit our mistakes and capitalize on their mistakes, and we just didn’t do that.”
Friday the Indians travel north to Wilmington to face the St. Marks Spartans, who are opening their season. The following Friday night, Sept. 29, the Indians host the 1-1 Delmar Wildcats.