Fans who paid admission to see Indian River High School’s varsity football team host Cape Henlopen on Sept. 7 sure got their money’s worth.
There were two lead changes and the score was tied three times — ultimately sending the game into overtime and setting up Indian River senior Luke Wingate for the game-winning field goal. Ultimately, the Indians took the game in a 34-31 win.
“This was the best high school game I’ve ever been apart of,” Indians senior quarterback Nick Kmetz said. “It was an exciting game.”
Indian River held Cape Henlopen’s All-State running back, Isaiah Briscoe — who had 109 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries — out of the end zone on three straight runs in the overtime period. That left the Vikings with the choice to try to tie the game with a 20-yard field goal attempt.
Vikings kicker Justin Lesko had gotten plenty of leg into his 38-yard attempt to win the game on the final drive of regulation play, but the ball sailed wide left. However, it appeared that the shorter kick would seal the game. And it might have, but Kmetz came off the corner clean and unblocked, blocking the kick and sending the game into overtime.
And as a backup kicker for the past two seasons, behind Andrew Cordell-Carey and Pierson Roenke, Wingate was relatively inexperienced but expressed the feeling that time spent on the team had prepared him for just such a moment.
“I’ve never had much adrenaline pumping in my life. But being on the team the last two years definitely helped me, because I had some experience, I knew what was going on and it helped me feel a little more comfortable,” he said. “I just kept my mind on kicking the ball.”
Whatever he did, it must have worked, because on Sept. 7 Wingate successfully kicked two field goals on two attempts and converted all four of his extra-point attempts for a team-high 10 points. His second field goal sealed the game as a standout.
Indian River had fallen behind 7-0 on the first drive of the first quarter, with one of three eventual touchdown passes by Vikings quarterback Max Coveleski. But they wouldn’t stay down for long.
The Indians scored 10 unanswered points through the first of two Wingate field goals, and junior fullback Cody Cooke punched in a 1-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 10-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Indians senior running back Justin Kraft countered a nine-play touchdown drive by Cape Henlopen with a 22-yard touchdown run. That gave his team a 17-10 lead five minutes before the end of the first half. Kmetz extended the Indians’ lead to 24-10 with a 75-touchdown strike to receiver Danny Bokinsky with 54 second remaining in the half.
Cape Henlopen didn’t sit on their hands in the second half and were able to capitalize on two ineffective third-quarter drives by Indian River. The Indians turned the ball over on downs to start the half and the Vikings cut the lead to seven by recovering a muffed punt by senior return man Robbie Disharoon.
Cape Henlopen recovered the ball at the Indian River 7-yard line and Briscoe made the Indians pay with a 1-yard touchdown run. Cape Henlopen capped the third quarter with a 10-play, 67-yard drive and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Coveleski to Laquan Hazzard.
Indian River answered the bell quickly and jumped back ahead, 31-24, with a 58-yard touchdown run by Kmetz.
Kmetz thrived in the Indians’ new spread offense — as did Coveleski — and finished the game with 357 total yards (203 passing and 154 of IR’s 221 team rushing yards), as well as two touchdowns and two interceptions. He passed to four different receivers, led by Bokinsky, who had three receptions for 147 yards. And though Kmetz had the most opportunities to make plays, he humbly deferred the credit for the win to his teammates, because, he said, there would have been no chance at victory without them.
“There are a lot of those plays that get set up by your teammates,” Kmetz said. “Ryan [Blatzheim] and Luke [Long] did a great job pulling,” he noted of the pair’s ability to open holes for him to run through. “The running backs did a great job picking up blocks. The defense made plays. And it was a great team effort.
“There are plays that you just can’t see from the stands, but the players know,” he added.
Coveleski finished the game with 219 passing yards on 16-35 passes, three touchdowns, one interception and 78 rushing yards from the same spread offense.
Indian River (1-0) will look to extend their record when they host Stephen Decatur tonight at 7:30 p.m.