South title still up for grabs
It was a tale of two drastically different halves when the Indians (3-4, 3-1) traveled to Woodbridge (4-3, 2-1) for the Blue Raiders’ homecoming on Friday, Oct. 23.
After managing only 23 yards in the first half, the Raiders would rally to score 34 unanswered points in the second half and eventually lock a 34-0 victory, shocking the Indians by handing them their first division loss of the season.
“In the second half, my team came out flat,” said head coach Phill Townsend after the game. “We started getting away from our game plan. We started playing as individuals, and we can’t do that. We gotta play together as a unit.”
But despite not managing to get on the board for the first time this season, the IR offense seemed to be clicking early behind senior quarterback Jake Hudson. After finding junior WR/LB Gianni Gottschalk for an 18-yard strike during a first-quarter drive, Hudson would deliver another first-down pass on the same drive, to senior TE/NT DeAndre “D.D.” Cooper, putting the Indians deep into Blue Raider territory before a fumble foiled their chance at a go-ahead score.
After a back-and-forth first game against Sussex Academy on Thursday, Oct. 22, the Indian River High School volleyball team got the spark they needed to go on a run, dominate the next two games and take the match.
But that spark would eventually lead to a much bigger run, as the previously 1-8 Indians went on to dominate their next four matches, rolling Worcester Prep (Berlin, Md.), Seaford and Woodbridge, and jumping to 5-8 in a span of just six days.
“It was a much-needed win,” said head coach Jim Barnes of initially snapping the four-game losing streak. “It was a little bit concerning in the beginning. It was close until we started getting our serves in, but when you start getting that lead, you start getting more confident.”
The confidence started to show in game two of what was the girls’ senior night as, after edging the Seahawks 25-19 in the first game, they put together a 25-10 victory before only allowing nine points and sealing the match in game three.
Selbyville Middle School and Millsboro Middle School have gone head to head countless times in countless sports, but never like this.
After getting approval from the school district last January, both schools launched girls’ volleyball programs for the first time ever this fall. And on Monday, Oct. 26, also for the first time ever, those programs went up against each other on the courts.
“When we play each other, we always get fired up,” said SMS head coach Sally Craig of the rivalry between the two schools. “It’s a friendly rivalry, but the rivalry is definitely there.”
(We’re probably all going to die this Halloween)
To misquote Jack Kerouac, I’m writing this column because we’re all going to die.
“Deshawn? You ready?”
That’s what Indian River High School head football coach Phill Townsend asked WR Deshawn Aiken with just over a minute left in last Friday night’s homecoming game against Milford and the Indians down 18-15. And as soon as he said it, everyone knew what was coming. Everyone except for the Bucs’ defense.
“We were actually gonna run that first play, but then Coach told us that we were gonna wait for the perfect time,” explained RB Gerald Foreman of the halfback-option pass that RB George Martin threw to Aiken for a 29-yard completion that got the Indians down to the 6-yard line. “We knew we were getting that touchdown from there. We were taking that win.”
“Coach came into the huddle and said, ‘Alright, let’s do it,’ and the second he said it, I knew exactly what he was talking about,” added Martin of the play. “My heart started beating so fast. I got the ball and I just threw it — I didn’t even think about it. Deshawn made a great catch. He adjusted his body, he turned — that was a great catch.”
The Caesar Rodney High School girls’ cross-country team was on a 44-meet win streak and coming off of three-consecutive undefeated seasons. Then they got to Indian River.
Both the Riders and Indians were undefeated on the 2015 season headed into the Wednesday, Oct. 14, quad-meet, but at the end of the day, it was the Indians that kept their perfect record intact in a race decided by just two points.
“The most incredible thing was when the CR coach came over and congratulated the team — that right there you don’t see happen that often,” said head coach Frank Ryman of the girls’ first-ever victory over CR. “It made an impression on the team.”
After CR’s Lauren Grismer and Natasha Feuerstein finished in first and second places, respectively, the rest of the top 10 belonged to the Indians, in their second and final home meet of the season.
With only three games left in the regular season, the Indian River High School soccer team seems to be hitting their stride as post-season play approaches, most recently taking down Dover 6-0 on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
“We want to be trending in the right direction, and that is happening,” explained head coach Steve Kilby. “We’re trying to stress that, every game, we need to improve. That would be the trend that we’re seeing right now. Hopefully, that will continue.”
“We knew every single team the first half of the season was going to be a great team and it was going to be a great battle,” added senior goalkeeper Ian Walls. “Now that we’re winning, we’re getting confident, not overconfident — we’re not done yet — but we’re using these wins to take on the next big team.”
That growing confidence showed early against Dover on Tuesday, as the Indians jumped out to a 2-0 lead at halftime with two goals from junior forward Mikie Mochiam — a player that started the season playing defense.
After falling 21-2 as juniors last year, the Indian River High School seniors were looking for redemption when they went to take on this year’s juniors for the annual Powder Puff football game on Wednesday, Oct. 14. And after a 6-6 tie in the first quarter, they got just that — racking up 36 unanswered points on their way to a 42-6 win.
“It’s fun. The girls love it. We had a great crowd tonight,” said Seniors head coach Bennett Murray, who remains undefeated in the game since starting as IRHS principal. “I’m very fortunate to work with a great group of girls and have two great assistant coaches that work with me.”
The scoring started early, when running back Davina Baine punched in a 3-yard touchdown to put the Seniors up 6-0.
“I got the ball and I kind of just ran. I didn’t even know it was a touchdown,” said Baine of her first career Powder Puff score. “After the first touchdown, we definitely started rolling with it.”
Coming off two straight losses that both went to five games, the Indian River High School volleyball team was planning to get back in the win column when district rival Sussex Central came to visit on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
What they weren’t planning on, however, was trying to do it without three of their starting players.
“We went from having 10 people to seven, so we knew we had to play hard to win,” said junior Sammie Mumford, who had to move to setter from middle hitter because of injuries. “We had girls come in from JV — they stepped up to the next level. I think they played very well.”
“The two setters are out. Sammi steps in and played terrific — that’s what I expect,” said head coach Jim Barnes. “I thought the girls that stepped in, such as Leah Kneller, played great. I thought Melissa [Woody] played great.”
When it comes to music collections, I’m too young and I’m also too old.
Don’t call it a comeback.
Down 18-6 before thunderstorms cut the first half 40 seconds early, the Indian River High School football team rallied in the rain after more than an hour of deliberation, surging with 22 unanswered points to eventually defeat Laurel 28-18 on Friday, Oct. 9.
“You could really tell a difference in the second half. We had a little bit more attitude to us. We knew the mistakes that we were making were fixable,” said head coach Phill Townsend. “This was the game that we were gonna determine what kind of character our team had. We responded really well, and our guys came together and played for Indian River pride.”
Despite a 7-yard first-down run on a fake punt by junior kicker/punter Mac Smith, the Indians’ offense remained stagnant for most of the first quarter. But after the Bulldogs took a 12-0 lead on bootleg scores from 5 and10 yards out from quarterback Perez Nichols, IR would retaliate in the second quarter, when senior running back Isaiah Morris broke a 25-yard run to make it 12-6.
As field hockey interest in the Indian River School District returns, the rivalry between Indian River and Sussex Central High School is heating back up, as well, and it showed when the two teams faced off on Thursday, Oct. 8, and finished in a 1-1 tie.
Junior Naiya Smith got the Golden Knights on the board first, just under 10 minutes before halftime, on an unassisted goal that put Central up 1-0.
IR senior keeper Maddi Thune’s 11 saves and eight from Central sophomore keeper Morgan Burton kept the rest of the game scoreless circling the final minute, which is when IR senior Callie McDowell knocked in the equalizer.
“We had a minute left, and I was not losing,” said McDowell. “We hate losing to Central in any sport. I knew that I had to take initiative and something had to change, because what we had been doing just wasn’t working.”
You’ve gotta get fierce.
It’s what Indian River assistant cross-country coach Katie Holloway told her squad before Dover, Delmar and Delmarva Christian came to town for the Indians’ first home meet of the season, on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
And after the starting gun went off, it’s exactly what her squad did, as several IR runners set personal records and the girls defeated Dover for the first time since 2009.
“It’s a milestone,” said head coach Frank Ryman. “Coach Holloway gave her, ‘You gotta get fierce’ speech — it lit a spark. We talked to our runners the day before about becoming fierce competitors — they had to step up their game. They found that they could push themselves further than they thought they could. It shows how incredible these athletes are.”
One of those runners setting a personal best on the day was senior Garrett Driscoll, who found himself in sixth place before turning it on for the final stretch and finishing fifth with a time of 18:36.
It was a game that went down to the wire between rival players and rival schools, but ultimately a 78th-minute goal from Carter Burris would be the difference in Sussex Tech’s 2-1 victory over Indian River High School on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
“That was a great game. It could have gone either way,” said Indian River head coach Steve Kilby. “We created a lot of chances. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t finish some of those goals. We had multiple opportunities that we didn’t finish, and in the end, that’s kind of what cost us.”
One chance that the Indians did finish came just before halftime, when sophomore forward Oscar Cruz knocked in a shot to put IR 1-0 in the 39th minute on a ball played in by sophomore Edgardo “Gardo” Valasquez.
“Gardo played the ball in, and it took a slight deflection,” Kilby said in describing the score. “Oscar came into the space and kind of reached up and heeled it over the keeper. It was beautiful.”
“G-Mart is on fire in the rain” is a comment that I shamelessly copyright-infringed upon for this week’s football article when I saw it posted on the Indian River High School sports app live scoreboard.
Despite the pouring rain, the Indian River High School rushing attack was on fire.
With four backs getting carries in their Thursday, Oct. 1, matchup against Seaford, the Indians ran ragged on the Blue Jays defense, rushing for 315 yards and six touchdowns, with the score getting as out of control as the weather and the Indians rolling to a 48-0 win.
“All of our guys were clicking,” said head coach Phill Townsend, who earned his first career victory at the team’s helm. “Our first three games, we had a tough schedule, but the guys kept their heads up, and tonight they saw that hard work is gonna pay off.”
The game had been originally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 2, but with the anticipation of Hurricane Joaquin’s arrival and with a nor’easter already in full force, it got bumped up to Thursday at 5:30 p.m. While the weather was held to a light ran for most of the first half, it picked up to horizontal winds and steady downpours during the second quarter.
While their schedule is finally starting to let up after facing four state-ranked teams in the first six games of the season, the Indian River soccer team was still put to the test when they made the trip up Route 113 to take on Sussex Central (3-2-1) on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
But despite starting the season 2-4, the Indians still managed to get back on track with a 1-0 win over the Golden Knights in the intra-district rivalry.
“We talked about how important this win was to getting us one step closer to being .500. I thought we played really well,” said head coach Steve Kilby after the game. “Central has a lot of pace. They’ve got some guys that can run. They did a good job on trying to target those players against our backline and put us under some pressure. The key thing there was our back four really played together pretty well.”
The game would remain scoreless until the 25th minute, when junior midfielder Mac Smith found the back of the net on an assist from junior forward Johan Cordoba after a long string of passes up the field.
You know that guy who wears the green-and-gold bandana and the pink boa who does the play-by-play at Indian River High School football games on Friday nights? The one that only on the rarest of occasions accidentally leaves the mic on without knowing it and gives the entire Indian River High School football stadium a behind-the-scenes look at the press box, and even then never says anything that would offend anyone, even though, in this day and age, people are pretty easily offended?
It was almost as if they had to lose the first game.
After falling behind 0-1 in their match against Milford on Thursday, Sept. 24, something clicked in the Indian River High School volleyball team. The passing got better, the serves got harder, and, most importantly, the talking got louder, as the Indians swept the next three games, to earn their first win of the season and move to 1-1 in the Henlopen South.
“We needed that win,” said head coach Jim Barnes, who earned his first career win as a head coach. “I’m very proud of the girls. I’m proud that they believed. I’m proud of them for coming back. They could have given up after that first match, and they didn’t — they picked themselves up.”
“I think we needed that win. We started slow, but we definitely needed that,” added senior Tiffany Rybicki. “Once we started talking, I feel like it was easy for us. I think it was a little bit of momentum.”
Coming off a 25-20 loss in the first game, the Indians fell behind 1-0 in the second game, but quickly turned things around when sophomore middle hitter Julie Bomhardt made a play at the net to tie the game 1-1. Then, with Bomhardt’s cousin, senior Eliza Bomhardt, serving up back-to-back aces, the girls took a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish en route to a 25-19 win, to tie the match at 1-1.
“The first game was extremely disappointing. I was disappointed, the girls were disappointed,” Barnes explained of the mindset heading into the second game. “The girls couldn’t believe that that just happened. They served better the next couple of games, they passed the ball better, they played better defense.”
Nana Kilby didn’t know who to root for.
When she went out to call the coin toss as an honorary guest at Tuesday night’s soccer game, on one side stood her son, Indian River High School head coach Steve Kilby, and on the other stood her grandson, Cape Henlopen High School head coach Patrick Kilby.
“She probably went with the winners,” said Steve Kilby with a laugh. “Patrick came in with his new team, and I just thought it would be a celebration for my mom, who came down to watch the game.”
As soon as the whistle blew, however, tensions began to rise, as the annual “Kilby Clash” got under way in a new form. Historically, the matchup between father-and-son head coaches has been played within the school district; however, with Patrick Kilby leaving Sussex Central to take over the Vikings this year, the competition has mounted — and it showed.
After Cape loss, road to the South starts Friday for IR football
It only takes six games.
Just ask the 2013 Ray Steele-led Indian River High School football team, which went 5-1 in the division and 6-4 overall, to clinch the Henlopen South title and earn a trip to the DIAA state playoffs.
While that squad would go on to fall to No. 1-ranked St. Georges Tech, 42-35, despite their best efforts to mount a comeback and send the game into overtime, they too started the season in less than ideal fashion — falling to 1-2 before winning five out of six division matchups, to earn an automatic playoff bid.
The 2015 Indians find themselves in a similar situation. After falling to 0-3 with a 34-0 loss to Cape Henlopen (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 25, a new test begins on Friday, Oct. 2, which marks the beginning of division play, when Seaford (also 0-3) heads to town. Despite the losses, however, head coach Phill Townsend and some of his veteran leaders know that, really, their season is just beginning. And that, sometimes, it only takes six games.
After starting the season 3-0, the Indian River High School field hockey team fell to 3-3 on Tuesday, Sept. 29, with a 3-0 loss to Polytech.
The undefeated Panthers (5-0) got the scoring started in the first half, notching a score off the stick of senior Jamie Trabaudo to go up 1-0 just over 13 minutes into the game. They’d strike again on another Trabaudo score about three minutes later, to head into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
The Indians would give up another score in the second half, en route to a 3-0 loss, as they struggled to put shots on goal and the Panthers possessed the ball for most of the game.
“We saw sparks here and there, but we just weren’t connecting enough of those sparks together to get it moving in the right direction,” said head coach Jodi Stone of the struggle offensively in the matchup. “When you play reactive hockey, you’re not setting the tone. When you play proactive hockey, you are setting the tone and you’re making things happen”
Cross-country runners from three local schools faced off with a fourth team on Wednesday, Sept. 23, with Indian River, Sussex Tech and Delmarva Christian all clashing at the quad-meet held at Seaford High School.
I was in trouble like five words into that headline. Luckily for me, and for the rest of Sussex County for that matter, whenever we find ourselves in trouble, we can always count on Phill to bail us out. And, luckily for you, I always write headlines before I write columns, so I now have no choice but to continue the legend of Phill in this week’s “Tripple OT.”
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
The fans had come out in droves on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to see something that they haven’t been able to in more than a decade — a 3-0 Indian River High School field hockey team.
After starting the season off with an overtime victory over one of the state’s top teams, Division I powerhouse Sussex Tech, the Indians continued to rack up the wins, rolling Laurel 8-0 on Thursday, Sept. 17, before making it 3-0 with a 1-0 shutout over St. Thomas More on Saturday, Sept. 19.
While the girls’ undefeated run would finally be cut short in a 1-0 loss to Woodbridge on Tuesday, pushing them back to 3-1, there’s no question that the bar for the program has officially been raised, as the team continues to make noise and fans continue to take notice.
“It was awesome,” head coach Jodi Stone said of the lively sidelines for Tuesday’s game. “I think the more they cheered, the better the girls played.”
Sussex Tech 36, Indians 6
The Indian River high school football team home opener against Sussex Tech last Friday night was quickly spoiled by the Ravens’ three-back rushing attack, which accounted for all five of the Ravens’ scores en route to their 36-6 victory.
Tech senior running back Timaun Williams struck first, taking a handoff on third down and bolting for a 43-yard touchdown on the Ravens’ first series.
Down 8-0, the Indians would respond by moving the ball effectively on the ensuing drive but, ultimately, turnovers would keep them off the board.
“Offensively, we were moving the ball real well, but when you have turnovers like we did, you’re not gonna have much success,” said head coach Phil Townsend.