Celebrating players rushed toward the cheering fans in the stands as Sam Izzo climbed the fence and thrust a fist in the air.
Indian River ran into a buzzsaw last year, losing to perennial powerhouse Salesianum in the boys soccer state championship game. But this time, with the creation of a second bracket, the Indians cashed in.
Izzo scored twice and Danny Garza had a goal and two assists to lead Indian River to a 3-0 victory against top-seeded St. Elizabeth in the DIAA Division II Boys Soccer Tournament championship game Saturday at Smyrna High. Indian River (14-3-1) became just the second school from Sussex County to win a boys soccer tournament title, joining Caesar Rodney in 1994.
“I’m numb,” Indian River coach Steve Kilby said. “I think it’s because I’m freezing and covered in Gatorade, but it’s a great feeling. Since Day One of the preseason, this was the objective, to get to this game, and these guys have put in so much work, it’s amazing. And it’s paid off tonight.”
Izzo headed a deflected free kick into the goal to give second-seeded Indian River a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute, a score that stood at halftime. Indian River nearly doubled its advantage when a header by Luis Cruz ricocheted off the crossbar with about four minutes remaining in the first half.
But the Indians quickly struck again after the break.
Garza booted a crossing feed from Cruz into the net for a 2-0 advantage in the 44th minute.
Izzo made the Indians’ state championship a formality by rifling his second goal of the game for a 3-0 lead in the 64th minute.
“They made history,” St. Elizabeth coach Ed Gibbons said. “It’s not the goal we had in mind, but they had the best overall record in St. E history, they made it the first St. Elizabeth team to make it to a state championship, and the whole season has kind of been a really cool feeling. We’ve had alumni … coming back from the program, following along, and the fans came out tonight and they were just as proud as the boys. It was a pretty cool experience.”
St. Elizabeth (15-3) was playing for its first boys soccer state title after edging St. Andrew’s 1-0 in the semifinals. Indian River dispatched Delaware Military Academy 5-0 to reach its second title game in as many years.
“I had never seen a team from IR win their last game, be able to come off this happy, and it’s great,” Izzo said. “Ever since I was a little kid watching soccer, this has always been the goal, win a state championship, do it for our high school, do it for our boys, do it for everybody back down south. And it’s just amazing.”