IR football wins division, 12-9, in a nail-biter over Lake Forest
Nothing but the last 35 seconds mattered on the gridiron in Indian River stadium Oct. 26. Lake Forest, their last major opponent, had one touchdown. IR had none, but they had possession on the fourth down, needed 14 yards for a first down, and 15 for a touchdown. Players on the sidelines and fans in the stands had clutched each other as IR pushed slowly up the field for the last five minutes.
Flags and timeouts on both sides jerked the clock slowly toward zero as IR reached the 7-yard line and Lake got a penalty. First down, Indians, with 24 seconds to score.
After a long night of Lake’s defense shutting down IR’s running game, junior Spencer Murray stepped in as quarterback. With 20 seconds left, senior Marquel Knight finally delivered the ball into the end zone. A failed kick tied the game.
A new energy revved through the stadium as the game reset in overtime, IR’s first in several years. People murmured the half-forgotten rules: each team had four chances to score from the 10-yard line. Whoever earned more points would win. Repeat the process until the tie was broken.
Lake had first possession, but IR pushed harder than they had all night, not allowing a single yard, until Lake was forced to kick a field goal.
IR stepped up, and Knight zipped through the center of the Lake for a touchdown, ending and winning the game.
“We stopped them on D[efense], we knew we were gonna score,” said Knight afterward. “[There wasn’t anybody] in the middle of the field, so I just called the play that ran straight up the middle and got a touchdown.”
While IR’s victory was sweet, it took a long time to get there. Lake seemed to place a target on IR’s fastest runners, and they made little headway in the first three quarters. IR also fumbled three balls, slowing their game.
“The problem is, we’re expected to win, so the pressure’s on us,” said coach Mike Norton, defensive coordinator. “We’re losing, and the longer the game, the tighter we were getting, until the fourth quarter. We always said the fourth quarter was ours. It was tonight.”
Norton said IR adjusted well, especially in the second half, where penalties hurt more.
“We just had to stop ‘em on D, get our offense rolling. Once we get our offense going we’re unstoppable, you know?” said Knight, admitting that Lake was probably one of the best defenses on IR’s schedule.
Knight said the team will work on ball carrying for their next game.
Defeating Lake Forest has earned IR a 7-1 record and the Henlopen Conference Southern Division title. The second-place team is Delmar, with a record of 5-3, and Lake dropped to 4-4.
“We gotta get ready for the tournament,” said Knight, already thinking ahead. “If we win these last two, then we’ll get ready for the tournament.”
IR’s last home game, senior night and band alumni night will be Friday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. against Seaford, whose current record is 1-7. Finally, IR will travel Nov. 2 to Sussex Central, whose current record is 6-2.