The Indian River High School soccer team is the new Henlopen champions, after defeating Milford 2-1 on Nov. 1.
None of it would have been possible had they lost to the previous champions, Caesar Rodney, on Oct. 27. A 1-0 victory over the Riders put destiny in their hands: beat Milford and they were the next champions.
But before the Indians could entertain the idea of becoming conference champions they would first have to defeat perennial powerhouse Caesar Rodney. The game was closely contested, but the Riders overplayed Ben Gichner freed up Indian scorers. And at the crucial moment, they capitalized.
Gichner was triple-teamed and he was able to slide left and push the ball out to Pierson Roenke, who scored easily at point-blank range, which would prove to be the one and only goal of the game.
Riders Head Coach Darrell Gravatt said he hoped his defense could contain Gichner and, though they gave up the game-winning goal, he wasn’t disappointed in his defense.
“Our defense did what I had asked of them. But it was our offense that let us down,” said Gravatt.
Caesar Rodney out-shot Indian River 2-1 (14-7 in total shots). But it was the Indians who came out on top in the end.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals all season, but this loss lets us know that we have more work to do,” said Gravatt. “We can’t let our guard down.”
“This was a great team win for us,” said Indians Head Coach Howard Gerken. “I didn’t expect a 1-0 score to hold up — especially after scoring in the first 17 minutes. I expected it to be a 3-2, 3-1 or 2-1 game.”
Offensively, the game was a chess match — but, defensively, it was a war. Indian River swarmed the Riders scorers. Gerken was happy to give credit where credit was due.
“Richard Webster played a fantastic game for us,” said Gerken. “Charlie Cole and Ed Smith also did an outstanding job for playing invaluable minutes. Tommy Reichart, Zack Izzo and Chris Conover were able to give us some quality minutes, giving some of our players a breather. It’s great to have everybody contribute to win in a team effort.”
Their championship-clinching victory came in similar fashion: low scoring and dramatic, equating to an ugly win. Gichner scored the game-winning goal with only 38 seconds remaining in the game.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we won,” said Gerken. “We had a ton of shots and only put two in. We’ve won the championship outright, which is a great accomplishment for the players, coaches and fans.”
This is the Indians’ second Henlopen soccer championship ever. Martin Chavez, Andrew Cordell-Carey and Gichner are the remaining members of the 2003 team that beat Caesar Rodney.
The state tournament committee will meet Friday, Nov. 4, to determine the seeding for that event, which may see the Indians high-ranked in the wake of their division win.