The wee morning hours of Oct. 29 marked Daylight Saving Time and that the days would progressively shorten each day throughout the winter until late March. But it also means that fall sports teams have less practice time as they head down the stretch and their seasons come to an end.
By 5 p.m., the sun begins its descent toward the horizon, and by 5:30, it seems a world away as darkness engulfs those in her wake.
Indian River’s school day ends at 2:40 p.m., and 20 minutes later, coaches are tapping their watches and counting heads so that they can get as much practice in as possible.
The shortened days come at a bad time for the Indian River varsity football team because they are coming off what head coach Jim Bunting called, “six bad quarters of football” in reference to losing the second half, point wise, 14-7 in a 35-14 win over Laurel on Oct. 20 and the team’s utter collapse in a 44-7 loss to the highly touted Sussex Central Golden Knights on Oct. 27.
Bunting attributed his team’s lack of success the last two weeks to their weekly practice schedule and noted that it had been too passive.
Mondays were designated for watching Friday night’s game film, with Tuesdays and Thursdays more of a walk-through than a full-on practice, which left only Wednesday’s practice for serious contact.
Bunting’s football team had run live to the ball in practice, meaning that the blocking was live and full-on. But the defense was to ease up and let the ball-carriers go through.
Bunting noted that the “snot-bubbling hits” have been absent from practice as of late and that he and his coaching staff wanted to reintroduce the August atmosphere that enabled them to jump out to a 5-0 start and may ensure that they make the state tournament for the fourth straight year.
Now, Bunting and his staff have allotted 20 minutes of both the offensive and defensive sessions to go live, to recreate some game-time intensity.
“We’re trying to create some electricity or a state of urgency,” Bunting said. “But not the kind of urgency that if we don’t win these last two games then we’ve lost. No, we’re trying to rev the kids up and get them excited. The last couple of weeks we’ve [practiced] to thud, which means the linemen block and the defense tries to shed the block, but the tacklers are only supposed to get a hold of the [running] backs. And I think we lost our intensity.”
“So now we’re telling them to strap it up in the last 20 minutes [of each offensive and defensive session] and they can either get better or get off the field.”
With so much to prepare for, implement and refine; Bunting noted that his team may start practicing under the stadium lights to combat the shrinking days.
Currently, Indian River is two points ahead of Concord for the fifth slot for the Division II state tournament and, with two games remaining against Southern Conference foes, Bunting is adamant that his team will persevere.
“I truly believe in divine intervention, and I believe that there is a silver lining to each dark cloud,” Bunting said. “Our last six quarters of football was our dark cloud, and now it’s time for us to face adversity.”
“We’re going to fight back instead of turning our backs. We’re intensifying and we’re preparing for the state tournament. There are 40 teams and right now, we’re one of six [teams]. And while the others rest and prepare for next year, we’re going to try to make the state tournament four years in a row.”
“We represent this community and our school, and I guarantee that we’re not going into the state tournament unprepared, like we did against Laurel and Sussex Central,” Bunting concluded.
Indian River will host Seaford (2-6) Nov. 3 for its homecoming game and ends its regular season with a road game against the Smyrna Eagles (3-5).