It was a battle between two unbeaten teams, and a potential preview of the Henlopen Athletic Conference championship game — should there be one — when the Indian River High School boys’ soccer team hosted Milford last Saturday, Nov. 14.
The Indians scored first, thanks to a goal from sophomore Jordan Illian (assist by Blake Morgan); but from that point forward, the Bucs put the clamps down on the IR offensive attack, while scoring three unanswered goals of their own for the 3-1 win.
That loss knocked the Indians from the ranks of the unbeaten, but they had little time to dwell on the setback, as they had just one day to prepare for their next two games.
On Monday, Nov. 16, the Indians hosted Sussex Tech and made sure that any ill feelings from the Milford loss were in the rearview mirror.
The Indians would score three first-half goals and add another in the second half as they blanked the Ravens, 4-0.
Erick Aguilera notched the first goal for IR, with assists from Eddie Mochiam and Illian. Just over 10 minutes later, Willem Lambertson doubled the IR lead with his goal, which was assisted by Illian again.
At the 27-minute mark, Illian would make it 3-0 on a free kick, to send the Indians into the halftime break ahead 3-0.
More ball-control domination from the Indians in the second half would limit scoring chances for Sussex Tech, and would lead to another Illian goal in the 62nd minute. Omar Baker was credited with the assist on the second Illian marker.
The Indians held a 22-6 advantage in shots in the game, but Tech would lead in corner kick chances, at 7-4.
IR senior Bastian Perry made five saves, while junior Reese Stone turned aside one to combine on the clean-sheet effort.
With the Indians back on the winning side, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, they hosted a tough Laurel squad in a battle of HAC South Division rivals.
Illian put the Indians on the first in the fourth minute with some nifty dribble work before burying his shot in the back of the net.
Laurel responded in the 44th minute of the second half to tie the game, but Illian once again stepped up for IR, sliding a shot past the Bulldog goalie for his second of the night — the game-winner, 2-1.
Complete domination on both sides of the field — with the exception of one letdown on the Laurel goal — as the Indians outshot their guests 26-5 and held a 5-2 edge in corner-kick chances.
Laurel eighth-grader Tate Walls was impressive between the pipes, turning aside 22 IR shots on goal. Perry needed to make just four saves for the win.
“You know, we kind of flip-flopped it back and forth between two different systems,” said IR head coach Steve Kilby about their strategy against Laurel. “We were a little unlucky, and we lacked some composure on finishing the ball. This is a good team. My concern is that I want them to be a great team. They’ve gotta learn to deal with adversity better, and the sky can be the limit if they want to work for each other and be cohesive as a team.”
The victory improved IR to 8-1 on the season with just three games remaining. Their final home game was set for Thursday, Nov. 19, (after Coastal Point press time) for Senior Recognition Night. They’ll travel to Woodbridge on Monday, Nov. 23 (5:30 p.m.), then visit Cape Henlopen on Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 10:30 a.m. for the regular-season finale.