Ashton Stephens, IRHS football

Sophomore Ashton Stephens fights for extra yardage as he is tackled by a host of Woodbridge defenders during last Friday’s 36-3 setback to the Blue Raiders.

Early on last Friday, Nov. 13, it looked as though the Indian River High School football team was poised to pull off what would have been an astonishing upset.

With River Vickers giving the Indians an early 3-0 lead thanks to his 30-yard field goal in the first quarter, IR had been playing with a lot of confidence. However, as time expired on that first stanza, Woodbridge would score on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Evans, and the Blue Raiders never looked back, en route to a 36-3 win.

Looking at that score one would think that it was not a close game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Indians battled tooth-and-nail with a perennially tough Woodbridge squad that will likely vie for another state championship — should there be a state tournament this year.

The stronger and easily faster Woodbridge squad limited the Indians’ offensive opportunities throughout the contest, but IR still managed to hold their own. Three big plays for the Blue Raiders really made for the end result in the contest.

“They are a very good team, and one of the things we did as coaches was we wanted to keep things simple,” said IR head coach Phillip Townsend of his strategy. “They are the kind of team that if you get too cute, they will make you pay for it. Their defense is really good … strong and fast to the ball. We wanted to try and get 3 to 4 yards at a time.

“Our offense is still growing,” he added. “We only have one senior on the line, and we have a lot of sophomores and juniors on the field that are getting invaluable experience. We wanted more than what we got, but I am happy with the effort from the guys. They never quit, kept working hard. We only had two penalties in the game, and no turnovers, which was nice to see. We want to continue to work hard in practice, keep battling and stay healthy.”

Woodbridge’s three big plays came on long touchdown runs by Jaden Bacon (28 and 73 yards) and Michael Plummer (40 yards). Bacon also added a 3-yard score to pick up the trifecta, with well over 100 yards for the game.

The Indians’ offense managed just 61 yards of total offense, with junior Dalton Hall leading the way with 23 of those yards on 11 carries. Max Curcio had 13 stripes on just seven carries, with Ashton Stephens adding 11 yards on five totes.

All told, eight different Indians carried the ball, which was exactly the kind of balance they’ve been focusing on in the past couple of weeks.

Junior John Williamson once again led the Indians’ defense with seven tackles. Stephens, Evan Coy and T.J. Burke each added four tackles, with Stephens also recording a sack in the game. Hayden Hall, Chance Hocker, Lucas Weber and Curcio were all credited with three tackles apiece. Laron Horsey had a pair of stops and a fumble recovery in the game.

The Indians now sit at 2-2 on the season and will host First State Military Academy (0-4) on Friday, Nov. 20. It will be IR’s Senior Recognition Night, as they look to get back on the winning side of the ledge with just three games remaining.

First State has struggled this year in their four games, being out-scored by their opponents — Delaware Military Academy, Conrad, Archmere Academy and St. Elizabeth — by a total score of 148-23.

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Kylie, 17, and Grace, 12. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that builds.