It was a new week with renewed focus, and the Indian River High School football team traveled to Polytech High School for another Friday Night Lights spectacle. The offensive production was spread all around, and the Indians defense put the clamps on the Panthers, to the tune of a 33-7 victory.
IR ran up 291 yards on the ground with seven different ball carriers, while holding Polytech to -1 yards of total offense on 22 plays.
It was an incredible effort by the Indians from start to finish.
“The defense definitely has been playing tough, and they’ve been getting better each and every day,” head coach Phillip Townsend said. “Big improvements from last game. We got a lot of the same kids on the field, with big improvements just in their tackling and number hats on the ball.
“I think part of what we are seeing is that this group of kids has a ‘want-to’ attitude. They wanna win. They wanna tackle. They wanna block. They wanna get better. I am not saying we are the best team … we know we have a lot of room to grow, but overall the kids every day, I feel like when we leave practice we are getting better, and that’s the whole goal.”
Sophomore Ben Cordrey got IR on the board first, with a 10-yard touchdown run with 2:15 left in the first quarter, for the initial 6-0 lead.
Polytech responded when senior Darnell Jackson picked off IR quarterback Tyler Bowen and sprinted 65 yards for the score.
It proved to be the lone bright spot on the night for the Panthers.
From there, Bowen put the Indians back in front for good when he crossed the goal line from 3-yards out. Ashton Stephens converted the two-point conversion run for the 14-7 lead.
The teams went into the halftime intermission that way.
Following the break, IR’s River Vickers drilled a 25-yard field goal for a 17-7 advantage. It would increase to 24-7 after junior Dalton Hall barreled his way into the end zone from the 2-yard line with 29 seconds left in the third.
Seniors Chris Cruz and Reagan Dunn met up with the Polytech quarterback for a sack and a safety to put the Indians up 26-7 with 5:22 left in the game.
Bowen would put the proverbial nail in the Panthers’ coffin with a 10-yard sweep to paydirt, for the final margin of victory.
Dalton Hall would finish the game with 65 yards on 14 carries and the touchdown, while Bowen picked up 34 yards on 10 totes with the two touchdowns. Cordrey took 12 handoffs for 54 yards and a score with Max Curcio (31 yards), Hayden Hall (45 yards), Evan Coy (29 yards) and Stephens (33 yards) all getting opportunities to carry the rock.
“Offensively, we were able to get things going,” Townsend continued. “We were chipping away. Guys did a great job all across the board. We had seven guys touch the ball, with five guys getting 10 or more carries. That’s gonna continue as we go. We are going to spread the ball out. We got a lot of young guys in the backfield that we are trying to keep healthy and get through the season.”
Defensively, junior John Williamson led IR with seven tackles and a fumble recovery. Stephens was disruptive all night long, with five tackles and three sacks. Junior T.J. Burke had three tackles and a sack, and Lucas Weber chipped in with four tackles. Curcio had an interception, and Dunn was credited with the safety sack (with Cruz) and a fumble recovery.
Vickers converted both of his point-after tries to go along with that 25-yard field goal. He also handled one punt for 44 yards.
The Indians will host Woodbridge (1-0) this Friday night, Nov. 13, beginning at 6 p.m. The Blue Raiders are coming off a 35-0 thumping of Lake Forest last week in their season-opener. The delay in the start of their season was due to a two-week shutdown by the school district over positive COVID-19 tests.
“We have Woodbridge this week, and that’s going to be a tough game,” concluded Townsend. “Our goal is to come out healthy, and to just get better as a team. Win, lose or draw, that’s the goal — to get better. After Woodbridge, it’s First State [Military Academy]. These next couple games are important to meet our goal for the season. Our goal is to finish over .500, and the kids know what we want to do. They’re all excited.
“They only have four weeks of football left. One of the things I stress to the kids is any day could be our last day, with the COVID situation. I always remind the seniors, ‘This could be the last time you put your high school football helmet on.’ I think, with everything going on, and with this group of kids, they’ve bought in, and they’re gelling well. It’s been fun.”