IR soccer allows first goal, remains undefeated
A crowded stadium. Two undefeated rival teams. Only one winner.
Fans from both sides enjoyed a thriller of a game when Indian River High School’s boys soccer team faced Cape Henlopen on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
IR may have won the game, 2-1, with well-placed goals, but Cape Henlopen pocketed a point on their way out. Within three minutes of the starting whistle, Cape’s Maximilian Euler scored the first and only goal scored against the Indians all season. As IR goalie Sam Cannon moved out, Cape slipped in to score. That put IR in unfamiliar territory.
“My concern was how would we respond to giving up a goal and being down, because that hasn’t happened this year,” said Steve Kilby, IR head coach. “The pressure we put on them was good. They responded well. They were pretty positive at halftime,” he added of his players. “We just asked them to attack more, get the flanks involved and, when the ball goes wide, to fill the box, which led to our first goal that tied it.”
IR responded four minutes into the second half. Daniel Garza seemed to catch and redirect the ball mid-air, aiming perfectly for Cape’s goal, with an assist from Sam Izzo. Carlos Perez Chavez scored the second goal soon thereafter, on a free kick. Cape’s keeper could only watch as the ball curved over his head from the right and fell down behind him on the left. Chavez’s fancy footwork had the crowd cheering.
“Carlos … really has the ability to strike a ball. He can crush a ball,” said Kilby. “He took a couple shots tonight from 25, 30 yards out. As soon as he struck it, it started to dip, which was what got it in.”
IR’s first goal, in the first half, was actually called back.
“We had a goal on a corner kick. To me it looked like he cleanly played it off his shoulder and it was not a hand-ball, but the linesman saw it differently,” said Kilby, with a grimace and a shrug.
The players from both teams are no strangers. Many have played together in River Soccer Club or the Latino leagues, said Kilby, who also coaches for River Soccer.
“I think it adds to the game. I think it’s a great rivalry. I don’t think there’s any malice, but it pushes the level of competition higher,” he said.
Although some IR players appeared frustrated in the first half, Kilby said, “I called out to players involved, and my comment to them was, ‘Stay focused. We’re down, it’s adversity. How are you going to deal with it?’ And the last 15 minutes of the half, they did.”
The win was a huge boon to IR after their loss Cape Henlopen in 2011. After the game, Kilby telephoned IR graduate and star player Josh Mercer, who was injured in last year’s game.
“This is Kilby,” the coach said into a player’s phone. “Listen, Josh: IR 2, Cape Henlopen 1. Tell him, boys!”
The 20 IR boys erupted in cheers, “Yeah!”
IR has fared well against Milford (3-0), Woodbridge (4, 0) and Sussex Tech (1-0, and an improvement over last year’s tie).
“Finishing under pressure, that’s the key,” Kilby later said of the team’s improvements. “We focus so much on speed of playing, fundamentals, in practice. We do have to solve the finishing and the attack.”
Kilby said the team would do light training Wednesday before traveling to Smyrna on Thursday, Sept. 27, for a game after Coastal Point press time. IR will be home on Tuesday, Oct. 2, against Lake Forest.
Before each home game, the players run to greet goalie Sam Cannon’s father on the sidelines. Willie Cannon is in advanced stages of Lyme disease, but he and his wife, Mary, are greeted or applauded in a private moment with the team each week.