Leadership and aggresiveness combine as IR readies for gridiron opener
Nothing is certain but death and taxes, but if it’s September, you can bet that football’s coming around again, too. With the college schedule getting under way this past week and the NFL back to normal after an offseason in lockout limbo, it was just a matter of time before high school ball followed suit. This Friday, the Delaware high school pigskin schedules get under way, and Indian River’s first-year head coach Ray Steele is ready as ever.
After sharing more than three decades on the sidelines with former Indians head coach Jim Bunting, Steele is taking charge, one week at a time, as the green-and-gold host Stephen Decatur in the team’s 2011 home opener, then welcome Milford the following week.
“I would love to start the first two weeks of my head coaching career 2-0,” said Steele with a smile during a practice earlier this week. “We start the season off with two Division I schools. You really like to use the non-conference games to get ready for the Southern Division match-ups; but at the same time, if you hit a bump in the South, you can use wins over those big Northern rivals. That will result in points as you get closer to the playoffs. You’ve got to get past some of the big guys to get into the post-season.”
This preseason, Steele and his veteran coaching staff got a first-hand look at the team on the gridiron via a late-August scrimmage against Caesar Rodney and another one last week against Smyrna.
“We’ve been looking to fine tune a few things,” he said. “The Smyrna scrimmage last week allowed our guys to work in some game situations. The coaches were on the sideline, and we were looking to see how our kids would handle assignments and adversity without us coaching right behind them every play. They could look to us on the side if they needed, just like in a real game situation.”
The Indians are bringing back some seasoned veterans, including fourth-year starting quarterback Jamie Jarmon, who has taken on a strong leadership role as he has developed over the years.
“Jamie’s been a big part of this program over the past year,” said Steele, “and we’ve got others to help him run the team. The coaches selected five captains – Jamie, Tyler Dean, P.J. Kraushaar, Matt Selba and Jordan Rogers. They do a great job with everyone and work hard getting everybody together. This season, we’re looking for that ‘we, not me’ attitude. It’s not about the statistics. It’s about working together as a team to get the job done.”
In recent years, establishing that team leadership role had been a struggle for the coaching staff, with some upperclassmen apparently focusing on individual success rather than the team’s best interests.
“We used to have less camaraderie,” Steele observed. “We’ve had some bumps early this year, but everything’s coming along. We’re letting these guys know that they need us more than we need them if this season’s going to go the way we want it to, and they’re buying into it. They are listening to what we’re telling them. We preach it, they practice it. The captains are doing a great job putting it all into motion.”
While leadership is helping to form the teammates’ togetherness, coaches are harping on a need for ferocity to take the Indians to the next level and make them Southern Division contenders.
“Before our first game with Stephen Decatur,” said Steele, “we’re pushing and pushing and pushing our offensive and defensive lines to get more aggressive on their lines. We have skilled-enough players in place. We can fine-tune them a little more, but we need those O and D lines to be strong and aggressive.
“That combination of leadership and aggressiveness is what we’re looking for this Friday,” he added. “We want that push from our lines, whether on offense or defense. If we get held up, we’re going to rely on our leaders to rally the troops and get them back to the task at hand. We’re not a one-play team. We need to come out strong and stay strong.”