Creating defensive turnovers, in addition to taking care of the football offensively, is a key element in the formula for winning football games. Indian River’s varsity football team has held an 18:5 turnover ratio over their opponents through the first six games of the 2006 season but lost on Oct. 13, despite forcing seven fumbles and recovering four against Delmar.
Staying true to form, Indian River protected the ball, rushing for more than 100 yards in each half, and created six turnovers (Indian River’s 24th turnover of the year) in a 35-14 romp over the Laurel Bulldogs on Oct. 20. One of those turnovers went for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs’ senior wide receiver, converted tailback Jeremy Bagwell, fumbled his first carry of the game and season. Indian River’s sophomore defensive lineman, Luke Long, was there to give his team an early advantage.
Long’s first fumble recovery gave the Indians excellent field position, at the Bulldog 25-yard line, after failing to clear their side of the field on the opening drive and set up a an 11-yard touchdown pass by Nick Kmetz to fullback Perry Townsend. That led to a 7-0 Indian River lead following a Pierson Roenke extra point.
Long scooped a bad snap on a Laurel punt attempt four plays later and rambled 22 yards for a comfortable 14-0 first-quarter lead.
“Those turnovers helped, Indian River head coach Jim Bunting said. “You could play the ‘would of could of’ game but the next thing you know we’re up 14-0 — and it got our momentum going and we felt pretty good about it.”
Bagwell had been ineligible to play football this season due to missing a portion of last year’s school year but applied to the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association for a waiver on the grounds of a hardship and was admitted to play against Indian River according to Laurel head coach Ed Manlove.
Laurel (2-4) has struggled offensively without Bagwell, scoring only 47 of its 61 points for an average of a little less than 10 points per game (9.4). Bagwell scored Laurel’s lone touchdown on a 91-yard touchdown reception on the first drive of last year’s 18-6 loss to Indian River.
Manlove moved Bagwell to running back to take some of the load off a hobbled Antwon Trimball but admitted that his team isn’t experienced enough and or physically able to negate a large scoring margin against the three-time Southern Division champion Indians.
“Physically, I thought we hung with them. We ran the ball well, but we didn’t make the big plays and they did,” Manlove said. “Mistakes early in the game led to easy points for them and that took us out of our game plan. Our style of football is to try to run you over and control the clock.”
Laurel’s game against Indian River marked the first time all season that its starting offensive line had played together for two consecutive weeks in a row. Four of the six linemen are sophomores and Manlove stated that they were still “learning to play under fire.”
Indians sophomore running back Isaiah Phillips scored his eighth touchdown of the season on a 35-yard scamper as part of his 120 rushing yards on 23 carries, to give Indian River a 21-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Kmetz tossed his seventh touchdown pass in three games by connecting with Danny Bokinsky, who caught his third touchdown pass over the last three games on a 66-yard reception to give the Indians a 28-0 halftime lead.
After the team recorded only 14 yards on nine carries in their last game, Bunting, in the week of practice leading up to the Laurel game, emphasized to Phillips and the rest of his backs to hit the holes and get what they could.
“We looked at the Delmar film, and though you can’t take anything away from their defense, it looked like he [Phillips] wasn’t attacking the line of scrimmage. So we worked on accelerating out of his stance — especially [when we run] between the tackles,” Bunting said. “When we run that toss, we want them to go east and west but look for those lanes.”
Indian River’s 186 first-half total yards out-matched Laurel’s 99 total yards but four straight dropped Bulldog passes also thwarted their opportunity to cut into Indian River’s lead going into halftime.
Laurel ran the ball better in the second half and sandwiched two touchdowns on 2-yard and 1-yard touchdown runs around a 37-yard touchdown run up the gut by Townsend for Indian River’s final score. But again, turnovers killed them.
Bagwell fumbled once more and threw two interceptions on half-back passes to Indian River’s freshman linebacker/nose tackle, Justin Rines, and junior defensive back Mark Ahfeldt.
Of Bagwell’s 161 rushing yards, 101 came in the second half. And despite totaling only 12 yards on six first-half carries; Trimball increased his yards per carry in the second half from 2 to 4 by rushing for 33 yards on eight carries.
“I thought we were a lot more physical [than Indian River] in the second half but, again, we couldn’t make big plays,” Manlove said.
Indian River (5-1) will host Sussex Central (6-0) Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., for senior night.