After falling behind 13-0 to Sussex Central in the first half on Sept. 24, it would have been easy for the Indian River junior varsity football team to just pack it up and call it a day. They could have — but they didn’t. And they went on to pull the score within one touchdown before ultimately losing 28-12.
Sussex Central controlled the tempo of the game by capping nine- and 11-play drives with touchdown runs by Clifford Painter and Jermaine Harmon to take a 13-0 lead.
Indian River, on the other hand, had only five of their 12 offensive plays go for positive yardage and was hampered by penalties in the first half. Indian River committed three of their four penalties within five plays of each other, which moved them out of Sussex Central territory and forced them to punt instead of possibly scoring before the half.
“The biggest thing was that we had some costly penalties in the middle of drives, and that slowed us down,” Indians junior varsity assistant coach Jeff Windish said.
Indian River didn’t get down on themselves during halftime. They came out and capped a 10-play, 72-yard drive on a 4-yard touchdown run by Devon Showell, to cut the Golden Knights’ lead to 13-6.
Sussex Central’s running game thrived, gaining 131 yards on 23 carries. But, in the end, it’s what also gave Indian River a chance to get back in the game, because it caused a shift of momentum.
Sussex Central’s Emmanuel Walters fumbled the ball twice with Darjuan Pitts and Showell on the recoveries. But Indian River was unable to capitalize. Pitts later intercepted and returned a pass from Golden Knights backup quarterback Shane Miller to the Sussex Central’s 11-yard line, which set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Timmy Bokinsky to Montre Andrews and cut the lead to 20-12.
“We came out with a lot of intensity and played very well to start the game,” Golden Knights junior varsity head coach Nick Fair said. “But they [Indian River] played good fundamental football, and by halftime, they came out with more intensity and got back into the game.”
After Showell stripped Walters of the ball, Indian River had three and half minutes to move the ball 57 yards to tie the game. But they were unable to recapture the offensive continuity they had enjoyed on their first drive of the second half and were forced to punt.
With a little less than two minutes remaining, Golden Knights running back Randy Brittingham took his first handoff of the game 46-yards for a touchdown on that first play, upon receiving the Indian River punt, to put the game out of reach.
Currently, each team has won and lost one game. Sussex Central lost its first game 8-7 to Laurel on Sept. 17, and Indian River defeated Stephen Decatur 14-7 on Sept. 15.
Despite losing the game, Windish had to tip his cap to his players. It was only their second week of play, and they are still working on developing an identity as a team.
“Coach Cordry and I were both pleased with the way we played in the second half. We started the game off slow but we built some momentum in the second half, so we’re definitely pleased with effort,” he said. “Offensively, we’re still trying to get a feel for what is working and, defensively, we really started to come together.
“We were able to make some big plays, but you have to give credit to Sussex Central. They’re a good team and they stopped our good plays.”
Sussex Central will play its next game at Polytech on Oct. 1 at 4 p.m., and Indian River will take on Delmar on Oct. 8 at 4 p.m.