The Concord Raiders have reached the Division II state championship game each of the last three years and in 2003 and 2004 beat Indian River in the semi-finals by a combined eight points on their way to winning back-to-back state championships.
The Indians rallied from a 19-0 deficit to cut the lead to 19-12 in 2003 and two failed drives inside the Raiders red-zone sealed a 7-6 loss in 2004 but, according to Bunting, the third time might be the charm.
“We’re tickled to play Concord,” Bunting said. “We were young and scared when we faced them in 2003 but I felt we represented well and in 2004 if we’d had a break here or there we might’ve played for the state championship.”
Offensively, Concord isn’t flashy and isn’t going to fool anyone: They’re going to run the ball, run the ball and then run the ball some more with 1,000 yard rusher junior Joshua Morris and maybe throw a pass or two around the red-zone for either of their six foot plus wide receivers Dekevis Howard or Kevin Hopkins.
Morris accounted for more than half of his teams 29 touchdowns (16) while both Howard and Hopkins have three touchdowns on a combined 19 catches.
“They play a ball-control style of offense,” said Caesar Rodney’s head coach John Coveleski. “They’ll run the ball on first and get three yards, get four more yards on second down and get three more yards on third down and be happy. That might make some teams nervous, but that’s when Concord’s in their comfort zone and every once in a while they’ll throw it up to one of their big receivers around the end-zone.
“They’re so big that it really doesn’t even need to be that close it’s basically a jump-ball situation for them.”
Coveleski’s Rider’s football team handed the Raiders’s their last loss of the season in a 14-6 win in week four and since then they’ve won out, winning their last six.
In that time, Concord limited their opponents to 27 points including wins over conference rivals Brandywine, Howard, and 2006 Division II state tournament championship hopeful, Hodgson.
The Raiders defense is particularly stingy — allowing only 8.3 points per game.
According to Coveleski, their base 5-2 defense is anchored along the defensive line with all-state defensive lineman Colin Heffernan, who leads the team with 16.5 sacks and tackles leader Paul Worrilow.
“They have five impact players on their defense in my opinion,” Coveleski said. “They have two big safeties playing two-deep, two big defensive ends and a big linebacker and they do a very good job on the perimeters and force you to run inside.”
And even though Concord’s schedule may be tougher (Concord’s opponent’s records total 56-44 compared to Indian River’s opponents 44-52 combined records) Bunting is confident that his Indians can knock off the perennial contender on Saturday.
“They try to get a lead early so they can milk the clock and when they do that they become very vanilla on offense,” Bunting said. “So what we want to try to do is jump out on them early and make them play offense.
“We’ve added some new wrinkles to our offense over the past few weeks and I’m sure Paul [Kmetz, Indian River’s offensive coordinator] has some things planned that nobody’s seen yet,” Bunting said. “We’ve put in an option and reverses to keep them honest and that should help our passing game.”
But ultimately, Bunting doesn’t expect his team to have to rely on gimmicks for a chance to win the game.
“I expect our players to play hard, aggressive what I call Indian River football and when the dust settles, hopefully we can come down with a win.”
Concord’s head coach George Kosanovich expects nothing less from his long-time colleague.
“Indian River’s earned everything they’ve accomplished over the last three or four years,” Kosanovich said. “And I don’t expect they’ll change much of what they do just like they won’t see us change much.
“When you’re winning, you don’t make changes all over the place, you get good at what you do,” he said.