With a team heavy in young underclassmen, the Indian River High School football team is still trying to find its identity, five weeks into the season.
The team’s youth and inexperience has led to turnovers and mistakes over the course of games, which has also led to their opponents taking advantage of the miscues, en route to wins over the Indians in the past four weeks.
Last Friday, Oct. 5, was no different.
Locked in a close battle with Lake Forest, the Indians had a fumble, interception and some untimely penalties that the Spartans capitalized on in a 35-14 win over IR.
However, the Indians have been making progress over these past couple of weeks.
“We took a big step forward tonight and are starting to get some guys healthy,” head coach Phillip Townsend said after the game. “It’s tough during the week, because you aren’t sure who you’re gonna have on Friday. Some of the big mistakes we made are due to having the young guys in our lineup. We have some sophomores and freshman up playing varsity, and that is tough for them to adjust.”
The Indians battled back and forth with Lake Forest through the first 24 minutes of the Oct. 5 game.
IR had fallen behind late in the first quarter when Ja-Juan Reid put the Spartans on the board with a touchdown run off the left side. The Indians responded just before the end of the quarter, when sophomore quarterback Tyler Bowen found Nicholas Angelo from just inside the 10-yard line to allow the Indians to tie the game up, 7-7.
Five minutes later, Lake Forest re-took the lead, 14-7, with QB Shyron Shalandy hooking up with Gavin Weatherspoon on a pass connection covering 11 yards.
But, again, IR marched right back down the field to knot the game back up 14-14, with Reshawn Turner plunging in from a yard out.
“It was a really exciting game,” Townsend added. “We were in it all night. I think we took big leaps forward. We’re still a young team. The kids played four quarters and didn’t give up. I love that about our team. We’ve just got to limit mistakes and learn from them. That’s the big thing.”
Bowen finished the night throwing the ball 5-for-14 for 89 yards and the touchdown. J.J. Killen also got in on the action, connecting with Angelo on a faked-punt pass for 23 yards. Killen was on the receiving end of a pair of passes for 37 yards as well, and Angelo snagged two passes covering 31 yards with the TD. Sophomore Lucas Weber made a tremendous catch of a Bowen pass for 42 yards.
On the ground, Turner covered 67 yards on 14 carries with the touchdown, while Dalton Hall added 30 stripes on six totes, and Bowen went 31 yards on 12 rushes.
Defensively, Ramond Turner was credited with nine tackles, with T.J. Moore getting in on seven others. Jacob Grab added six stops to the effort, while freshman T.J. Burke and junior Jaquan Floyd each came away with five tackles.
“We were in this game all the way up to the fourth quarter,” concluded Townsend. Lake Forest, he said, “just made a couple of big plays, and, unfortunately, both of their big runs and big pass plays were on sophomores and freshmen. It’s just tough we’re a smaller team, dealing with a lot of injuries. We’re hoping to get some more guys back, and make a run at Seaford and Laurel, then continue through the South.”
The Indians will hit the road to square off with Seaford (1-4) on Friday, Oct. 12. The Blue Jays are coming off a 44-6 loss to Woodbridge last week. Having won last year’s meeting with IRHS 32-20, they will have a shot this week at making it two in a row over the Indians, while IR will seek to even things up.
By Jason Feather