In the hours leading up to Indian River’s varsity football game on the road against Lake Forest on Oct. 19, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to how much of the game would be played, due to an approaching cold front.
If it began raining cats, dogs and kitchen sinks, the game would have likely been stopped and continued the next day. So Indians head coach Jim Bunting made it clear to his team that they had make as many plays as possible right out of the gates, because there is no telling how a team will react from day to day. Indian River could come back flat the next day, he said, and Lake Forest could look like the New England Patriots.
As it turned out, it didn’t rain a drop. But Indian River sure took their coach’s advice to heart and made plays. They also made them quickly, in a 54-6 drubbing of the Spartans.
Indian River (6-1, 3-1) scored three offensive touchdowns on three first-play drives out of 11 and scored a defensive touchdown on the first play of a Spartan’s drive.
Quarterback Nick Kmetz, who threw for 229 yards on 14-20 passes and for five touchdowns, helped put the boot on (1-6, 1-3) Lake Forest’s neck by throwing first-play touchdown passes on three distinct passing looks.
Kmetz connected with Zack Kmetz coming out of the backfield for one of his two touchdown receptions, on a 6-yard touchdown reception, to take an early 7-0 lead. Kmetz later connected with Trevor Abbott for a 19-yard touchdown reception on a stop-and-go route to take a 20-0 first-quarter lead.
Finally, Kmetz connected with running back Justin Kraft on a 43-yard screen pass. Kraft then followed a convoy of blockers, untouched, into the end zone to take an insurmountable 48-6 lead with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Abbott jumped a Spartans wide receiver screen and took it 29-yards for the Indians’ lone defensive touchdown, giving Indian River a 34-0 lead to start the second quarter.
“They’ve heard of overtime, but they don’t know how to play it,” Bunting said of the Indians’ prospects of finishing its game against Lake Forest the following day if the weather had deteriorated. “So I told them to get out there and make a statement.”
Indian River received the ball to start the second half and went right back to work offensively. They capped a five-play drive that featured three passes with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Disharoon to make the final score of 54-6.
After the runaway victory, Bunting justified his first-team unit scoring their eighth touchdown at the start of the second half by saying that he had wanted them to run one more series, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, before sending in the second-string offense.
“I’m a big believer in, if you have a substantial lead in the third quarter, then you put in your second string. But I wanted my let my first unit run one more series,” he said. “If they’d gone three-and-out and punted, then that would’ve been it. But it just so happened that we scored a touchdown.”
“We’re a spread offense, and throwing the ball is what we do,” Bunting added with a hint of frustration. “If Sussex Tech runs the ball, primarily, and if they were winning by a large margin, then they’re supposed to pass? No, we’re going to take what defenses give us, and our offense is predicated on passing the ball.
“I’m not going to make Nick tuck the ball and make them run it and risk an injury,” Bunting said.
Bunting’s second-string offense took over and finished the game with little success under a running clock, but they decided to let a number of their defensive starters, who in some cases had played a different position or very little defensively to this point in the season, remain in the game in the hopes of gaining some cohesion.
“We probably have 14 to 15 guys that we’re rotating in on defense, and some might be saying, ‘Hey, I saw him play in the second quarter.’ Yeah, but you probably didn’t see him in the first or second quarter,” Bunting said. “So we felt we needed to get them what I like to call ‘live under the lights experience.’”
Since the season began, the Indian River coaching staff has tinkered with a number of defensive fronts and personnel before finally settling on a core rotation three weeks ago.
Bunting said he was pleased that his core defense was able to get reps against the scout defense during the week of practice leading up to the Lake Forest game and that it had paid off in the end.
Abbott’s interception return for a touchdown was a direct result of seeing that play in practice. He was able to react once he recognized the play.
“He picked it right up,” Bunting said of Abbott’s recognition of the wide receiver screen. “Defensively, we’re looking really good right now. We’re reacting and going through the ball. But I think [our defensive starters] needed to stay in the game and get comfortable. [Up until a couple of weeks ago] we’d been reading, reading, reading without reacting. But now we’re starting to get it,” he added.
Bunting said he was uncertain whether or not the Indians’ homecoming game against Laurel would be played tonight or whether it would be played tomorrow, Oct. 27, due to a lingering cold front. Bunting mentioned that a decision whether the game will be played Friday or Saturday will be made about noon on Friday, and interested parents and fans can contact Indian River High School for details.
Bunting mentioned that, no matter when the game was played, he expects Laurel (4-3, 1-2) to implement a game plan similar to what Milford used, which was to keep the ball out of the Indians’ hands by grinding the clock through a ball-control offense.
“They’ll to do the same thing that Milford did,” Bunting said. “They saw Milford put a couple of seven- to eight-minute drives together, and they figure that as long as they keep the ball out of our hands then we can’t score.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., whichever day the game is played.
If the game can’t be played Friday and it is still raining the following day, the game will be played on Saturday, regardless.