Win over Milford kindles Indians' hopes

On Oct. 12, one week after losing their first game of the season, the Indian River varsity football team rebounded to defeat Milford 27-20.

IR Football 10-19: Indian River quarterback Nick Kmetz stiffs a Milford defenseman while trying to gain yards on Friday, Oct. 12.Coastal Point • RUSLANA LAMBERT
Indian River quarterback Nick Kmetz stiffs a Milford defenseman while trying to gain yards on Friday, Oct. 12.

Milford’s Brandon LeGrand capped three time-consuming drives with touchdowns from 21, 1 and 3 yards out, and the key to Indian River winning the game was to return the favor.

“They had a couple eight-minute drives, and when you’re only playing 12-minute quarters, that’s going to hurt you,” Indian River head football coach Jim Bunting said.

“Milford’s a good ball club. But when we shut down what they did well, it allowed us to win the game,” he added.

And with Milford’s offense stymied, Indian River’s prolific offense took over. For Milford, it became a matter of picking their poison.

When Milford (3-3, 2-1) stacked the line of scrimmage with defenders, Indian River (5-1, 2-1) threw the ball. When they dropped back in coverage to stop the passing game, Nick Kmetz and Cody Cooke gashed them for an average of 6 yards per clip.

“Each week, we try to take what they give us,” Bunting said of opposing defenses. “Cody is a big boy, so when they went out into coverage we let him pound it inside. And when they became more conservative, we started throwing the ball. And Nick and the offensive coordinator [Paul Kmetz] did a good job.”

Kmetz maintained his record of efficient play in the season to date, completing 75 percent of his passes (12-16) for 179 yards, and added a team-high 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Cooke received his biggest workload of the season (14 carries) and translated that into a season-high 90 rushing yards and two touchdown runs, including the game-winner with four minutes remaining in the game.

The Oct. 12 game had huge ramifications for both teams. Milford held a 2-0 division record and a win over Indian River and one over Delmar on Oct. 26 could have translated into a Southern Division championship. For Indian River, the win rekindled hopes that they could still win the division and kept them from slipping in the points standings for the state tournament.

Currently, three teams — including Laurel — have accumulated 20 points toward the state tournament. Indian River is on a short list, with Concord and Friends, with 24 points — and any loss from Oct. 12 forward could send them spiraling out of the tournament.

But, more than that, the win proved that the earlier Delmar loss was just that: one loss.

“This game showed us that [our team] isn’t broke,” Bunting said. “And I got to say I’m proud of the kids. The line did a great job and our defense is improving every week.”

Next on the Indians’ docket are the Lake Forest Spartans. The Spartans (1-5, 1-2) put up 20 points in a 40-20 loss to Delmar last week, but Bunting was quick to note that from here on out the Indians are expecting no easy victories.

“Anything can happen when you’re in their house,” Bunting said of playing at Lake Forest tonight. “They could have a fired up week and beat us. I know when I first started coaching here beating the Laurels, the Woodbridges and Delmars was a big thing for us, and it could be the same thing for Lake. But I believe we’re one of the top teams in the South, and we’re used to having a target on our backs each week.”