The Indian River Indians varsity football team’s 45-13 regular season finale win over the Smyrna Eagles earned them a first-round home game in the Division II State football tournament against the Concord Raiders (8-2, 6-0 Blue Hen Conference) on Nov. 17.
The Indians (8-2, 6-2 Southern Henlopen Conference) rallied past a pair first half miscues and throttled the Eagles for 511 yards of total offense, behind four all-purpose touchdowns by recently shifted fullback to tailback Perry Townsend, sure-handed wide receiver play and excellent clock management to end the first half.
Townsend and quarterback Nick Kmetz capped the Indians first and third offensive possessions with rushing touchdowns to give their team a 14-0 advantage but Smyrna was able to sandwich in a couple of big-time plays by a pair of sophomores to make a game of it in the first quarter.
Defensive back Bryan Denegal intercepted a pass intended for Josh Hitchens to end an eight play scoring drive on Indian River’s second possession and Smyrna then cut the Indian River’s 14-0 first quarter lead in half when quarterback David Brower connected with wide receiver Tyler Gebhart for his first of two touchdown receptions on a 55-yard pass play.
“We looked sloppy in the first quarter but we turned it up and played football from there on out,” Indian River’s head football coach Jim Bunting said.
Kmetz completed his next three passes, two of which moved the chains for first downs and Townsend punished a few defenders on his way to a 16-yard touchdown run, his second of the game to give them a 21-7 lead. Smyrna couldn’t counter offensively and turned the ball over on downs deep inside Indian River zone to give Indian River one last scoring opportunity with a little more than a minute remaining to play in the first half.
With one minute, seven seconds remaining in the half — nearly half the usual two minutes allotted in practice for such a situation, Kmetz connected with three different receivers and had the presence of mind to spike the ball to reset the offense to continue the drive.
“Nick’s a gamer and a football player,” Bunting said of Kmetz’s quarterbacking on the Indians final scoring drive of the first half. “Those are the things that we’re going to have to do in the state tournament.”
Townsend punched in his third touchdown run of the first half from two yards out and his 91 rushing yards led the team at the end of the half.
As a team, Indian River rushed for 162 yards in the first half added 166 passing yards on 10-17 passing.
Kmetz completed 12-24 passes for 198 passing yards for the game and threw his first touchdown pass of the night to Townsend late in the third quarter.
Townsend finished the game with 138 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, reeled in three receptions for 47 yards —including a 26-yard touchdown reception — and, according to Bunting, has become the Indians go-to back down the stretch.
“We’ve moved him to tailback because Cody Cooke has done such a nice job at fullback and he and I had a conversation that when he gets the ball, he’s a beast. One-on-one there isn’t anybody that I think can tackle him and we’ve been trying to set him up with those types of situations on counters and reverses to the backside.
“What I like most about Perry is that he believes in himself so much. When he gets the ball he can turn a crack into a great big canyon.
“He asked for the ball and we’re going to give it to him,” Bunting continued.