With a loss Friday against cross-conference rivals Sussex Central and a Woodbridge victory over Seaford, competition closed in around Indian River this week as the struggle for South Henlopen champion nears.
Friday’s game at Sussex Central proved to be too much for the Indians as the Golden Knight offense drove past for a 44-7 win, chalking up their eighth victory on their faultless season.
Brian Scott’s touchdown return for the Knights in the opening kickoff seemed to set the pace for the rest of the game. A fumble from Indian River allowed for a Central field goal from C.J. Bell to give the Knights an early 10-0 lead.
A glint of hope came for the Indians when Perry Townsend ran for 72 yards to close the gap, 17-7. Central, however, answered right back, pushing through with prevailing drives. Runs from Darshon Adkins and Courtland Conaway helped total 331 rushing yards for the Knights.
“We looked very ‘vanilla’ against Central,” said Indians’ head coach Jim Bunting. “There was just no color. We didn’t have the ‘umph.’ Central’s a good team. We’re a good team, but we just didn’t show it. When you lose to a better team, and you bring your best, it’s an easy pill to swallow. It’s really hard when you’re going up against a good team and don’t even represent.”
Bunting said he stands by his philosophy of “autographing your performance.”
“If we win, great. If we lose, I want us to lose with humility, and I don’t think we did that well,” he said.
It marked the Indians’ second defeat of the season, the first coming from conference rivals Delmar on Oct. 13. Indian River, which is 6-2 on the season and 3-1 in the Henlopen South, still leads the conference in points scored (248) and average points per game (31). Woodbridge’s coincidental score of 44-7 against Seaford last Friday earned them a 4-1 record in the conference, and Delmar’s unscathed Wildcats (7-0) remain at the top.
With the Central game now behind them, Bunting is preparing his team for Friday’s Homecoming game against Seaford.
“We need to work together as a staff. We’re going to coach up. I’ve told our players, ‘If there are some things out there that you truly felt that you did well, then you have to build on it. If you saw things that you did wrong, you need to retool and work on those.’ A lot of that is individual. We just have to get back to doing things right.”
Indian River now sits on deck in the conference, under the .800 Woodbridge Blue Raiders and Delmar, whose latest conference match-up resulted in a Lake Forest forfeit after three student-athletes allegedly misused painkillers. Delmar faces two more conference games in the season, including Smyrna on Nov. 3, then Woodbridge on Nov. 10. The Woodbridge Blue Raiders will host out-of-conference Polytech on Nov. 3.
“It’s not always about the X’s and O’s, and beating your rivals,” said Bunting. “A lot of it comes from that, but it’s ultimately about performance in the tournament. I’m emphatic about taking my team all the way. The guys have to look at the big picture. They’re among a privileged group. If we win the next two games, which I believe we can, we’re sitting pretty in the tournament.”
Indian River looks to capitalize on their last two conference match-ups, hosting their homecoming game against Seaford on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m., and battling at Smyrna, Nov. 10.