After battling through a 2-8 campaign during the 2019 season — one in which there were injuries too numerous to list — the Indian River High School football team enters this year with a positive mindset, thanks to a strong core of talented individuals.
Head coach Phillip Townsend is in his 10th season with the football program — the past five as the head coach — and this year he is hopeful that all of the injury woes of the previous two years are left behind.
“Last year, we finished 2-8 and never reached our full potential,” Townsend recalled. “We lost a game by a point, lost a game in overtime, and several other games we fought hard but didn’t get the job done. We have several key returners and are looking to build off of last year.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Bowen is back after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. He is fully healed and will look to get back into the groove of where he left off during his sophomore campaign, in which he showed all kinds of promise. He will battle with sophomore Hayden Hall, who saw plenty of action last year as a freshman, thanks to the mountain of injuries to the team’s other signal-callers.
The ground game will feature the team’s leading rusher from last year in junior Dalton Hall. He came close to the coveted 1,000-yard mark for a season in 2019. He will be joined in the backfield by newcomers Ja’hmir Brumskin, a senior, and Laron Horsey, a junior. That same trio will also be anchoring the Indians’ linebacking corps on defense. Senior Jalen Holland showed flashes of big play ability last season and will also be looked at to provide the same this season.
The passing game will be aided by the return of receiving weapons Lucas Weber (a senior), Ashton Stephens (sophomore), Ryan Sheerer (junior) and Reagan Dunn (senior). Dunn was the emergency fourth quarterback who was thrown into action late last season following the injuries to the team’s first three QBs.
The offensive and defensive lines will be bolstered by the returns of senior Chris Cruz and juniors T.J. Burke and Jack Williamson. River Vickers will handle the team’s kicking duties on field goals, kickoffs and punts.
Bowen and Hayden Hall will also see time on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary. Weber and Stephens are being penciled into the defensive lineup as well, as ends, while Sheerer and Holland will be in the defensive backfield. Dunn will provide depth for the linebacking corps.
The Indians will be counting on the likes of newcomers Ben Cordrey (sophomore, RB/DB), Chance Hocker (sophomore, FB/LB), Max Curcio (sophomore, RB/DB), Clifton Toomey (junior, OL/DL) and Colton Benton (junior, OL/DL).
All of this returning talent certainly has some big shoes to fill with the departure due to graduation of T.J. Moore, R.J. Rybicki, Ramond Turner, Jodiah Morris and JaQuan Floyd, among others.
“We have the best schedule we have had in years, and are looking forward to a competitive season,” Townsend said. “Our team goal is to finish 4-3 with a winning season. This goal is attainable because we have a group of kids that are eager to put in the work that it takes to turn things around.”
That “best schedule” kicks off on Friday, Oct. 23, with a road game at Seaford, beginning at 5 p.m. The following week is the Indians’ home opener as they face the Bulldogs of Laurel. Game time for that one is 7 p.m.
The delay in the start of the season — originally moved to February then moved back to October — has certainly made it unlike any other season in trying to get the team ready for action.
“It was difficult to prepare for the season when there were so many unknowns,” concluded Townsend. “As many others, I was planning to play in February and had to quickly adjust to the new schedule. With the new COVID guidelines, it has made it difficult to get everything in that we typically do in a traditional preseason. We have had to adjust and stick to the basics.
“In this case, less is better, moving forward. It has been a challenge to condition the deconditioned athlete, and also install schemes and plays in a two-hour window each day. We are taking one day at a time, and maximizing our opportunity to be prepared for Oct. 23 against Seaford.”