Friday win showcases consistent talent through IR’s roster
They may only be approaching the fourth week of the season, but the Indian River football team is presenting themselves as a force to be reckoned with, and one that may have the best shot at not only the conference title, but states, as well.
Following their third win of the season, the Indians advanced their undefeated record to 3-0, with an overpowering showing against Washington High under the lights last Friday. A sprained ankle for leading rusher Elijah Foreman kept the sophomore benched, though, as the 56-0 blowout would suggest, it wasn’t an inhibiting factor for the team.
The Indians played nine different running backs against Stephen Decatur last week, proving that there is no single rusher carrying the team.
“We weren’t running up the score,” said Bunting of the game against Washington. “We just have more depth in our roster than we’ve had in a long time. It’s nice to have that kind of electricity.”
And the team was firing on all cylinders last Friday.
Five-foot, 4-inch senior Tyree Oliver picked up 96 yards on the ground in the first half alone, before capping off the night with 35 more and a touchdown. Junior fullback Cory Showalter and senior fullback Cody Cooke ran for 72 and 58 yards, respectively, against Washington. Cooke tallied a touchdown in the win. Senior tight-end Zach Kmetz made his presence known, raking in two first-half touchdowns.
“Everything came together,” said Bunting. “There were a couple of times that we got sloppy. But as I told them at halftime, we don’t accept that. We’re out here to play football, and we’re going to play hard.”
Last week’s game gave Bunting and his coaching staff the chance to try a few things out, including a 90-yard “starburst” kickoff return at the start of the second half from Danny Bokinsky that snagged the Indians another seven points.
“We never had the opportunity to set it up,” said Bunting. “We had talked about it. Danny took it and ran a middle wedge, and even the eyes in the sky never saw it until he was gone. We got good angles on the blocks, and it just became a foot race.”
Mixing up the running game, Bunting was able to see performances put on by backs deeper in the lineup.
“[Freshman Darwand] Handy and [junior] Timmy Wood were great out there,” he said. “Every time Wood had the ball, he was getting 10 to 15 yards.”
Indian River’s Bo Wilkinson registered time in as quarterback, relieving freshman Jamie Jarmon. Wilkinson went two-for-two for 16 reception yards, throwing a touchdown reception to Kmetz and rushing in for the final score, too. Jarmon had a TD reception and rush for 26 yards, as well.
The coaching staff was able to rotate six defensive ends onto the field, too.
“There’s no better experience than game experience,” said Bunting. “The last few games were nail-biters, but tonight, we were able to put all the things we try at practice into a game situation. A lot of these guys are just a play or injury away from being a starter for us.”
While Foreman was on the side, returning from the injured list were Jake Mitchell and Ken Kelly, each earning some long-awaited playing time. Foreman is expected to play in IR’s game Friday, Sept. 26, against Woodbridge.
In addition to running more players, the substitutions allowed starters to view the game from other angles.
“It’s a lot of help for these guys to watch the game from another perspective,” said Bunting. “The first-team defensive end was on the side, talking to the other players about how the play is developing. Our guys were actually helping to coach the team and staying involved with the plays.”
He is satisfied that his staff doesn’t need to lean on any individual player as the end-all, be-all for the team.
“A lot of times,” said Bunting, “you talk about putting all your eggs in one basket, and relying on that one group of guys to carry you, but you have to be careful. When that basket gets crimping we’re in trouble and, believe it or not, it’s happened to us in the past. When a key player would go down, you could feel the wind knocked out of us, and all the spirit goes out of the team. Seasons ago, we would still win, but that drive to get to the state championship was tarnished. This team is different in that they act as a supporting cast, and it drives them all to play that much harder.”
The true test will come as the Indians face conference rivals in the upcoming weeks. The 0-3 team from Woodbridge will make their way to IR’s stadium this Friday, Sept. 26, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The Indians will follow the next week, Friday, Oct. 3, by traveling to play undefeated Delmar, who bettered their win against Cape Henlopen with a point spread of 18, compared to IR’s 3.
“I think a win creates its own momentum,” said Bunting. “These boys each week are believing in themselves. We’re getting ready for next week, and we had guys feel what it is to be out here. The more experience we can give a kid in live performance, the more it is going to propel us where we need to go.”