Rushing offense of 319 yards means a few things: control of the line of scrimmage, tough running, and that one team has the ball and the other doesn’t — all of which makes Indian River Head Football Coach Jim Bunting happy.
“We’re tickled with our running game,” said Bunting. “But we’ll have to be careful with how much we play certain players because some of them play better when they get warmed up.”
Indian River High School shut down and shut out Cape Henlopen 27-0 on Sept. 9 in the season opener. The Vikings hadn’t won a game last year. But that was last year and they gave a good fight in the first half. The score stayed scoreless until senior runningback Matt Williamson powered through defenders to rip off a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Williamson earned 132 team-high yards on 17 carries and was complemented perfectly by the Indians’ other rushers. Senior Danny Veith owned the outside running lanes and clipped the 100-yard mark on just eight carries. Junior fullbacks Perry Townsend and Josh Gott punished Viking linebackers on each of their combined 10 carries to chip in for 68 tough yards.
Gott only had six carries but averaged more than 8 yards per attempt. And there is a sense that he needs to have the ball more.
“Josh is like Riggins,” explained Bunting with a reference to Redskins’ legend John Riggins. “The more he runs, the more dangerous he is. He needs to have the ball more, and we as coaches need to tailor our game plan around our players’ capabilities.”
Despite an ample quiver of runningbacks, Bunting is confident that they’ll all get plenty of carries — their offense will just have to execute better at the point of attack.
“Our M.O. on offense has been ‘beat the defense off the ball,’ and we didn’t do that in the first half,” said Bunting. “We’ve worked hard on it at practice and we’ll need to continue to work at it.”
Despite clearing paths left, right and up the middle, the offensive line and the rest of the team will need to improve on the little things to regain their title.
“We had to apologize to the kids,” said Bunting, “because we vent a little bit on the kids. We have such high expectations of our team that we want to improve every week.
“The kids did well,” noted Bunting.
Controlling the line of scrimmage is an important key to winning a football game and the Indians defensive line didn’t let the offensive line have all the fun. Defensive lineman Brian Lynch and Phillip Townsend tallied six and seven tackles, respectively. Perry Townsend effectively patrolled the middle to lead the team with eight tackles.
Bunting attributes his defense success to their attention to detail and recognition.
“The boy’s are doing a great job of recognizing formations and what plays are run out of them,” said Bunting. “If you know that a team runs three or four plays out of a particular formation, then it limits the possibilities of what the play will be.
“We like to make the offense adjust to what we do and it’s got to be frustrating when our players are calling out their plays,” added Bunting.
When the Indians front eight wasn’t tackling runningbacks, the secondary was breaking up and picking off passes. Safety Nik Kmetz and cornerback Josh Dean picked off Viking quarterback Max Coveleski. But it was Williamson’s 18-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave Indian River the momentum near the end of the third quarter.
Coveleski tossed a flat swing pass to the receiver in the slot and Williamson jumped all over it to score the touchdown.
Josh Dean earned his stripes on the offensive side of the ball as well. He fought off two Viking defenders to reel in a touchdown reception and give the Indians a 20-0 lead. Dean led the team with two receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown, while Tyler Hastings and Andy Bokinsky combined to catch three passes for 32 yards.
Eric Givans had five dropped passes, but individual work in practice is sure to cure the butterfingers.
“We really stressed individual skill this week in practice,” said Bunting.
“[Bokinsky] will be the hero sometime this season,” the coach added. “From his wrestling career, he knows how to play under pressure.”
Indian River will have the heat on them on Sept. 16 when they host local perennial super-power Stephen Decatur for their first home game.
The 11-2 Bayside Conference champions will be a tough test for Indian River, despite losing standout running back Ben Tate. Bunting noted that, to win, his team would have to step up and defend their home field.
“Last year, we beat Central in their last home game. Someday, one of our boys will say, ‘Hey, we beat you in your last game,’ and we don’t want someone from Stephen Decatur to say the same thing one day about our first game at our new school,” said Bunting.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16.