“Five yards and a cloud of dust,” combined with a solid defense.
That is the way Indian River’s football team is going to win football games this year, according to Head Coach Jim Bunting.
Speedy workhorse Therman Hagans is gone, but Indian River has returned a platoon of able running backs. However, that corps took a hit on Oct. 7 when Josh Gott went down with a knee injury in the second half of their eventual 31-13 win over Lake Forest.
Gott was scheduled to have a MRI test on his knee on Oct. 12 and will not play against Delmar on Oct. 14. He may also miss the following game against Laurel, according to Bunting.
Along with his fellow backs, Gott has kicked up a lot of dust on opposing defenses thus far this season, resulting in five straight Indian River wins.
Gott has earned 631 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns this year. Though Matt Williamson and Danny Veith are both very capable backs, they both must step up to match Indian River’s grind-it-out style of offense with Gott out.
Against Cape Henlopen in the season opener, Williamson had 132 yards and Veith stacked up 101 yards, with Gott playing a secondary role. That shows the offense can be effective with an inside-out running game, as opposed to an almost exclusively smash-mouth style of play.
Bunting noted that it was that type of resiliency that earned them their win over Lake Forest, despite their opponents’ desperate attempts.
“When Josh went down, I saw their heads dip a bit. But our guys kept with their blocks and assignments,” said Bunting. “That was the drive that we went down the field and scored.”
Indian River jumped out on top on a 41-yard Eric Givans strike to Josh Dean — his first touchdown pass of the season. A scoreless second quarter gave way to torrential rains and more scoring in the second half.
The slop was made for power-running and Gott banged in two touchdowns from two and five yards out. Kicker Andrew Cordell-Carey nailed a 33-yard field goal for his first of the season, to put Indian River up 24-13 before Veith could put the nail in the coffin on a long touchdown run.
The Indians’ offense was not only able to take advantage of Lake Forest’s defense but exposed a needy offense.
“We knew that if we stopped the run then they would have to pass,” said linebacker/fullback Perry Townsend.
Lake Forest was forced to pass on almost every down, which may have played to their strengths, according to Bunting. But Indian River’s secondary and linebacker corps took the ball away.
Indian River snatched five interceptions — one of which Williamson took the distance for his second interception return for a touchdown. Dean, Veith, Williamson, Andy Bokinsky and Tyler Hastings snared Lake Forest passes, giving Indian River a short field.
Defensive lineman Brian Lynch added a quarterback sack and a forced fumble, along with fellow defensive lineman Phillip Townsend’s seven tackles.
Indian River will line up against Delmar (4-1) and one of the better running backs in the state Oct. 14. Joe Holland scored four touchdowns against Seaford last week — one of which was an interception return, and the others he took the distance (26, 50, 63 yards).
Delmar runs the Power I and Wing-T. Like Indian River, the team runs a few formations but will give a team different looks throughout the game within those formations. They’re hoping for the defense to make a mistake, according to Bunting.
“When you run different looks out of a few formations, you’re hoping to lure the defense into thinking the play is something different and, hopefully, that defensive player will widen out so that you can bust a play,” said Bunting.
Indian River’s defense has prided itself on its recognition thus far and that will no doubt play an important role if they are to continue their surge towards the top.
“Mike Norton (defensive coordinator) has worked really hard with the kids on their recognition, and through constant practice we’ve been able to do well,” said Bunting.
Playing Wing-T aficionados Caesar Rodney in the pre-season has also helped and put them in a position to have success against that particular offense according to Townsend.
“The Caesar Rodney scrimmage did a lot for our confidence,” said Townsend. “Usually we scrimmage Maryland teams and we beat up on them, but that scrimmage let us know that we have a good defense.”
Indian River will host Delmar, Laurel and Sussex Central the next three Fridays. Each game time is 7 p.m.