The Indian River High School boys’ soccer program is no stranger to the DIAA Division II state playoffs. They certainly are no stranger to the rest of the state, either.
The Henlopen Conference South Division champs won their first two games of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Glasgow on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and then a 4-1 win over previously-unbeaten Brandywine on Saturday, Nov. 10.
“We’ve been condensing this into a four-game season, and one of the things we’re looking at is if you don’t give up goals, you can’t lose,” IR coach Steve Kilby said after the Brandywine game. “We wanted to defend first, which we did a really good job of most of the night. I was really proud of the guys.”
In their opener against Glasgow, the Indians scored a goal in both halves and defensively put the clamps on the Dragons’ offense.
Jared Cordoba got the Indians on the board in the first half, roughly 30 minutes into the game.
Willem Lambertson gave the Indians an insurance goal with a second-half goal with just under 20 minutes left in the game.
The win advanced IR into the second round, where they squared off with Brandywine — the Blue Hen Conference Flight B champions. The Bulldogs came into the contest sporting a perfect 15-0 mark, with nine shutouts amongst their wins.
IR put any thoughts of another shutout to bed within the first 12 minutes of the game, when Yves Graf took a beautiful pass from Cordoba and buried his shot past diving Brandywine goalie John Imburgia.
Graf was looking for a second goal when his shot was initially saved, but Alex DeLuzio was there for the rebound, to make it 2-0 at 13:11 of the first half.
The Bulldogs were finally able to break through when John Murphy was taken down in the box by an Indian defender for a penalty-kick opportunity. The Brandywine sophomore fired his shot past Zach Neal to cut the Indians’ advantage to 2-1.
The Cordoba-Graf connection once again struck for the Indians when another Graf shot was deflected by Imburgia and Cordoba chipped it across the goal mouth for a 3-1 IR lead with 18:14 left in the contest.
Graf found paydirt for his second of the game — and the proverbial icing on the IR cake — with just under 13 minutes remaining, to allow the Indians to breathe a sigh of relief, as they knew they were moving on to the semifinals.
The win advanced the Indians to a postseason rematch with a familiar name: Caravel, the bracket’s No. 1 seed overall. The Buccaneers (12-2-1) won their second-round match with a convincing 6-1 decision over Conrad.
“Caravel is quality from top to bottom, and they have a really, really good coach in Kyle Ellis,” Kilby said ethis week of his team’s semifinal opponent. “He has them organized, and they play at a high rate of speed. They get their outside backs up the field. So, we’ve got to account for two or three different things. We will really have to be prepared for them.”
Caravel defeated the Indians in last year’s state championship game, 2-0.
The game was set to be played on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Dover High School, after Coastal Point press time. The results can be found on the Coastal Point sports Facebook and Twitter pages. Should IR defeat the Bucs, they would advance to the DIAA Division II state final for the fourth straight year, to play the winner of the Nov. 14 game between Archmere and Wilmington Friends.
The Indians defeated Caravel for the program’s second state title, back in 2015, by a score of 1-0. The teams have met in the playoffs every year since 2014.
By Jason Feather