Trailing Delmar 13-7 in going into halftime, Indian River’s head coach presented his players with a challenge: play your position at the highest level. Head Coach Jim Bunting assured his players that they would win the ballgame if they played Indian River-style football, and his players believed.
“We knew we could come back because we seem to do it every game, and if we played IR football then we could win,” echoed center/linebacker Zack Mitchell. “We had to wear them down in the second half.”
Delmar capitalized on Indian River mistakes for two touchdowns in the game.
On Indian River’s initial drive they were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal attempt by kicker Andrew Cordell-Carey. But Delmar burst their way through the line like a bunch of gangbusters to block the kick. Zack Kennan picked it up and rambled 70 yards for the touchdown.
Indian River’s possession just couldn’t get up a head of steam and Matt Williamson got stuffed at the line on 4th-and-2 at the Delmar 15. Williamson would recover a Delmar fumble, giving the Indians a golden opportunity to tie the game deep in Delmar’s red zone.
Indian River was faced with another 4th-and-short inside Delmar’s 5-yard line and Eric Givans tossed a low ball that tight end Tyler Hastings scooped for the touchdown.
“I had to look up at the heavens on that play,” said Bunting. “It looked like he caught it on the bounce, but when we looked at it on film it looked like a clean catch. Maybe we’ll have to get CBS to review that one.”
Indian River had knotted it up at 7-all and a strong defensive stand forced Delmar to punt from their own 17. The kick sailed to the Indian River 35, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty by Phillip Townsend gave Delmar another set of downs, which proved to crucial because Justin Thomas took it to the house untouched for a 55-yard touchdown scamper.
“They ran a trap and Bryan (Lynch) went the wrong way, and our linebacker slipped,” said Bunting. “It was one of those situations where everything that went wrong that could. But a football game has 120 plays, and if you can win more of those plays then you have a good chance to win the game.”
Trailing six points, Indian River received another great opportunity to strike back following a 40-yard kickoff return by fullback/linebacker Perry Townsend. With only 25 yards to go, Indian River sputtered and went four-and-out, which resulted in a 10-play Delmar drive that ended in a 37-yard missed field goal by Bruce Roberts.
The crucial point of the game came just before halftime, with just a bit less than two minutes to play. Hastings thwarted a reverse that may have put Delmar into scoring position. Delmar was at their own 45 and they ran a reverse to Austin McClean. Despite a convoy of blockers, Hastings slashed in to drop the back for a 5-yard loss.
Hastings’s discipline play also put the clamps on a wide-open screen play to Jensen Dennard for a loss of yards.
“Tyler is a product of hard work, determination and listening to the coaches,” said Bunting. “He executed what the coaches wanted and he was there to make the play. Against Lake Forest he stayed home against a counter and a reverse. He does it game-in and game-out.”
Hastings made three great plays to stop Delmar cut-back runs and trick plays throughout the game.
In the second half, Indian River’s running game found life, which fueled Indian River to score 18 unanswered points — all of which were scored by running back/linebacker Matt Williamson.
Delmar switched from their 4-4 defense to a five-man front, which Indian River exposed to their benefit by running the toss sweep to death.
“When they switched their defense, that meant that there was one less man to get around the corner. And Bryan (Lynch) and Perry (Townsend) did a great job of sealing the corners,” said Williamson.
“It was all about the blocking,” said Bunting. “We needed the seal and a kick out and it kept working so we had to go back to it.”
With fellow running back Josh Gott gone for the season with a torn ACL, it was Williamson’s turn to carry the load, and that he did as he smashed Delmar’s defense for 138 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. After only gaining 32 yards on seven carries in the first half, Williamson turned it on in the second half to put the Indians on top.
“Matt came through when we needed him,” said Bunting. “It was a courageous effort.”
“I tried to perform my best. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get the ball more. But Josh (Gott) was running the ball pretty good and he doesn’t play defense and I do, so I accepted my role,” said Williamson. “But to win the game like this is indescribable — there’s no feeling like it.”
The Delmar game marks Williamson’s second 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Despite giving up a 55-yard touchdown run, Indian River swarmed Delmar’s star running back Joe Holland and limited him to 26 yards on nine carries. Holland has twice rushed for over 150 yards (Seaford-192, 4 TD’s and St. Elizabeth’s-150, 2 TD’s) but Indian River’s defense made sure that didn’t happen.
Not only did they not give up a 100-yard rusher, they didn’t even give up 100 yards. Indian River swarmed the backfield for three sacks and the pressure applied forced three turnovers. Josh Dean and Ty Jennings each snagged interceptions, while Williamson plucked a fumble recovery.
Bunting was very pleased with his defensive line’s play and noted that play recognition was the key to a number of their plays.
“Delmar runs a belly on their first play and Phillip (Townsend) almost killed their running back,” said Bunting. “Phil had six tackles and four assists and Tyler played outstanding (five tackles, four assists).”
Slipping past Delmar (4-2) keeps Indian River’s state tournament hopes alive but Laurel (5-1) stands in the way. Williamson said that if they can stop Laurel’s belly dive and maintain their endurance, they should win the game Oct. 21.
“I think nine out of 11 of their starters play offense and defense, so fatigue is going to be a big part of the game,” said Williamson.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Indian River.