For the last five years, Indian River and Caravel have taken turns ending each other’s boys’ soccer seasons. It’s the kind of rivalry fans look forward to in high school sports — if their team is on the winning side of things.
Unfortunately for the Indians this season, the Buccaneers were too strong out of the gates, en route to a 6-3 decision in Nov. 14’s semi-finals of the Division II state tournament. The loss brought IR’s 2018 campaign to a close with a 15-3 overall mark and a Henlopen Conference South Division title.
“Their organization … nobody took more than two or three touches on the ball, ever,” a disappointed IR head coach Steve Kilby said after the game. “They moved constantly. We watched film, tried to prepare for it, and still weren’t able to.”
Caravel went on to win the Division II championship in a 2-1 overtime thriller against Wilmington Friends. It was the second straight state title for the Buccaneers, having defeated IR 2-0 in the 2017 final.
IR found itself on its heels for much of the first half of the Nov. 14 game, thanks to Caravel’s ball control, ball movement and relentless pressure in the offensive zone. The Bucs jumped out to a 5-0 first-half lead due solely to their strong play through the first 40 minutes.
Benjamin Schwartz got the Bucs on the board first, at 25:27. Less than four minutes later, Patrick St. Leger made it 2-0 Caravel. Jacob Rubini then scored the first of his three goals in the game with his strike with 8:09 left in the first half. He added his second marker right before the intermission, at 2:16.
But the Indians didn’t just tuck their tails between their legs and pack it in.
Not a chance.
Just over three minutes into the second half, junior Yves Graf broke up the shutout with the first of his two goals in the game. His second came less than a minute after Alex DeLuzio’s goal in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“We changed our sights at halftime, and we asked them to win the second half. We did that 3-1,” Kilby continued. “Obviously, it wasn’t enough, ’cause we’re done. Great group of seniors that put in a lot of work over four years. I would have liked to see them one more game, but that’s not the case.”
Those seniors include goalie Zach Neal, as well as Jhony Ortiz Velasquez, Luke Morgan, Yohanfer de Leon Mejia, Juan Linares, Luke McCabe and Tony Velasquez. Along with the seniors’ graduation, the Indians will also lose Graf, who was only at IRHS for one year as a German exchange student.
With that group of talented, senior leaders now set to move on, it will be up to the underclassmen to maintain and carryon the statewide reputation that the program has built for itself.
“I’ll say this about us … we’re a consistent, high-flying program, and have some pretty high expectations,” Kilby concluded. “For the most part, our players respond the way they should. Now, the question is, we have some young guys that can play, what are they going to be like next year?”
Extra kicks: Caravel now has two straight wins over IR, who had won the teams’ two previous meetings, including the 2015 state championship game. The Buccaneers hold a 5-6 advantage over the Indians in their matchups since 2009, with the seven of those 11 contests having come in the postseason.
By Jason Feather