In the past five years, the football program at Indian River High School has only given up four conference losses. While the game will be one of head coach Jim Bunting’s most anticipated games this year, that record won’t be tested until later this month, when the Indians host Woodbridge in their first home game of the 2008 season.
The Indians have plenty more ahead of them, however, starting off this season against a developed Cape Henlopen team on Friday, Sept. 5.
Scrimmages last weekend against Caesar Rodney and Parkside High suggest that the squad has evolved their skill in attempt to defend their 8-3 record from 2007. With Caesar Rodney players scouted by Rutgers University and High Point, and impressive coaching staff coming from Salisbury at Parkside, the Indians were forced to bring what they had.
“We wanted to see some things [in the scrimmages],” said Bunting, “and we did. Our guys, got tired of being pushed around, especially in the Parkside game, and started giving a little back.”
Replacing last year’s senior quarterback Nick Kmetz wasn’t something Bunting wanted to worry about just yet, but he’s already sure he’s found his answer in the preseason. Freshman Jamie Jarmon will suit up Friday night, headlining in his varsity debut, coming off an undefeated football season at Selbyville Middle School. Together, he and senior Bo Wilkinson will be the go-to guys taking the snaps this year, Bunting said.
“Those two have really separated themselves as stand-out players,” he noted. “Jamie gives us one look, and Bo gives another. They compliment each other nicely. We’re not looking to alternate the two every play, but both guys are real hungry for position, and there’s a lot that each of them can bring to the team.”
And when it comes to the “team,” the rest of the lineup has come a long way, too.
“Against [Caesar Rodney],” Bunting stated, “we had our own linemen pointing fingers at each other and losing composure. I told them, ‘Look, you all get together and say ‘Family’ on three, yet, all of the sudden, you blame your own teammate. If someone’s having trouble, you have to be there and help him out.’ After that, the guys really started working as a team and being there for one another.”
Starting with their Sept. 26 match-up against Woodbridge, the Indians will face six straight weeks of conference games.
“We all like to get some wins under our belt,” said Bunting, “but these are the ones that really count.”
At the same time, he’s eager to begin the season with a powerful team like Cape Henlopen.
“I enjoy playing against competition,” he said. “A number of times, if it hadn’t been for early-season competition, we might not have been ready later in the year. As I’ve told other coaches, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not playing competition that is at least equally as good as yourself. Otherwise, you’re not going to improve on anything.”
The Indians’ schedule boasts only three home games this year. However, all of them are against conference rivals. Three weeks after hosting Woodbridge, Lake Forest will travel to Indian River, before Seaford has their go in late October.
“We were fortunate last year to have seven home games,” said an understanding Bunting. “What more do you want? You have to compromise. It’s just the way things go. I like the away games, anyway. It keeps our guys focused more.”
This week, in preparation for the 2008 opener, Bunting had a willing team practicing before him.
“It’s great,” he said. “These guys are out here and they want to be practicing. There’s no single thing we’re stressing at practices, but we’re working on a lot of things. We’ve been keeping our corners and safeties moving, and we’re ready this season.”
The cooperation has paid off, and the team is, once again, returning to its character as a family.
“The chemistry is coming together,” Bunting said. “They can’t do it in one day, but their strength is getting tighter and tighter. I know they have each other’s backs.”
The Indians will travel to Cape Henlopen on Friday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m., where they will face the Vikings.