Just 20 seconds into the game, Laurel’s Jeramy Bagwell took an Armand Brodeur’s pass 91-yards for a first-play touchdown against Indian River on Oct. 21. But the Indians would combine grind-it-out football with big plays to earn their seventh win by scoring 25 unanswered points, defeating Laurel 25-6 on Oct. 21.
“Our guys weren’t fazed at all,” said Head Coach Jim Bunting. “We knew that six points wasn’t going to beat us and, heck, we still had 47 minutes of football left.”
Bunting admitted that the long touchdown strike caught them off guard but teams seldom throw on first down, especially deep in their own territory.
“They caught us off guard a bit,” said Bunting. “We weren’t expecting them to go down the field on first down. Most teams run the ball just to get a feel for the game.”
Indian River didn’t quake. Offensively, they capitalized on field position and kicker/tight end Josh Hitchens returned Laurel’s initial kickoff to their 2-yard line. But a holding penalty on the return negated the long run and Indian River was forced to settle for a field goal attempt.
Andrew Cordell-Carey laced a 35-yard field goal for his second of the season, to cut the Laurel lead to 6-3. And from there it was all Indian River.
Indian River squelched Laurel’s second drive after giving up two consecutive first-down runs to Robert Reed and Tykie Hill. They took over on downs after forcing the Bulldogs into a 4th-and-long situation. Indian River forced Laurel into three three-and-outs and two turnovers, compared to the Indians’ one turnover.
Indian River’s running game was slow and consistent, and eventually wore down the Bulldog defenders. Matt Williamson gained 63 yards of his 84 yards on 15 first-half carries and Zack Rector bowled over Laurel defenders for 22 yards on six carries.
Rector finished with 42 yards on 10 carries, while Thomas Veith chipped in seven yards on three carries. Forty rushing plays ensured the clock was running down, and a 3.4-yard per carry average ensured the sticks kept moving — which is what set the Indians apart from Laurel.
Bunting noted that Rector and fellow fullback Perry Townsend could soon emerge as the kind rushers that Josh Gott was in the first half of the season.
“Josh (Gott) was a blocking running back last year,” said Bunting. “Maybe he got the ball three or four times, but he developed a running style — and in some time Perry and Zack could do that too.”
Indian River earned seven first-half first downs to Laurel’s three. Laurel played tougher defense in the second half, limiting the Indians to only three more first downs, compared to only one more for Laurel, and giving them four first downs for the game.
Indian River’s methodical running game set up big pass plays, which quarterback Eric Givens connected on twice to set up Indian touchdowns.
Givans connected with wide receiver Josh Dean on a 38-yarder to set up a one-yard quarterback keeper for the go-ahead touchdown. Indian River forced Laurel to punt on their very next possession, giving the Indians some momentum. They capped off a 14-play drive with another Givans touchdown run.
“The keeper is more of a quick play,” explained Bunting. “If you give it to the fullback, it’s more of a 3-yard run as opposed to a one-yard run and at that point Eric was beaming with confidence. Usually, you give it to your workhorse who got you down there, and that’s what we did — we let him run it in there.”
Givans teamed up with Dean on each catch of his three completions, for a total of 74 yards. That included a 35-yard touchdown pass at the start of the fourth quarter.
“It was basically a great throw and catch,” said Bunting of his passing and receiving tandem in the Laurel game. “Eric has been critical of himself so far and, hopefully, this will let it heal itself.”
Indian River will host its last home game of the season against county rival Sussex Central on Oct. 28 for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Knights’ passing game has the Indians coaching staff on alert, but earlier games have prepared them for the match up.
“Lake Forest’s quarterback and receiver were really good, and I thought our guys did a good job on them,” said Bunting. “We saw the Central’s quarterback on film against Dover and he is accurate and has guys that can catch the ball.”