After two of the greatest seasons in school history, the Indian River football team started over this year without many of the stars who carried them to success.
The Indians lost three of their first five games but have won three in a row and can clinch a third straight Henlopen South conference championship with a home victory over Delmar (8-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We finally got our young kids to buy in and come along and believe in themselves a little bit,” Indians coach Ray Steele said. “At the beginning of the season, we were very immature as far as starting experience. I don’t think the kids really knew how good they could be.”
Indian River (5-3) lost to Lake Forest 16-13 on Oct. 5, but wins over Laurel, Woodbridge and Seaford have pushed the Indians to 4-1 in the conference. Delmar is 4-0 in the conference but needs two more wins to take the title. Woodbridge is 4-1 and can still win the South if Delmar wins Friday and the Blue Raiders knock off the Wildcats next week.
It’s very simple for Indian River – beat Delmar and win the conference.
“That’s our way into the tournament,” Steele said. “We would have a chance [of making the playoffs with a loss], but it would be a very, very slim chance. So this is not just the South championship game, it’s a ticket to the tournament. If we don’t punch that ticket, we may be home watching this year.”
The Indians went 12-0 behind unstoppable quarterback Jamie Jarmon in 2011, winning every game by at least 14 points and thumping Caravel 35-13 in the Division II state championship game. Indian River went 9-3 last year behind speedy QB Marquel Knight, falling to Caravel 43-42 in a classic Division II semifinal game.
Now Spencer Murray is the quarterback. The Indians’ no-huddle offense isn’t quite as fast as last year, but they still play at a faster tempo than most teams.
“We’ve been kind of practicing in advance for a week or so on that,” Delmar coach David Hearn said. “We’ve tried to prepare ourselves for that in practice by picking up the pace on what we do. You can’t just go out there in a game and think you can keep up with that.”
Murray has completed 28-of-51 passes for 424 yards and rushed for 315 yards and five touchdowns. KiAnte Sturgis has rushed for 927 yards and eight scores, and Tim Roberts is an all-around threat for Indian River with 14 catches for 251 yards and two TDs, plus a team-high 60 tackles and six interceptions on defense.
The Wildcats counter with QB Shane Leatherbury, RBs Jordan Brown and Tre Leatherbury and LB Chase Harmon. Delmar struggled in a 21-20 victory over archrival Laurel last Friday but should be ready to go this week with a lot on the line and memories of last year’s 32-24 Indian River victory as motivation.
“We know each other pretty thoroughly, inside and out, so fundamentals are going to decide this one,” Hearn said. “Last year, they returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns, and that was the difference maker. It’s going to be those kinds of plays that probably tip the balance.”
Tough finish for Polytech
The third-ranked Polytech field hockey team fought through four one- or two-goal victories on the way to a 13-0 start, but the Panthers knew the toughest part of their schedule awaited at the end.
It arrived last week, as Polytech lost 4-0 at No. 1 Cape Henlopen on Thursday and 6-1 to No. 2 Delmar on Saturday as part of the Turf Bowl at the University of Delaware’s Rullo Stadium.
“Obviously, I think Cape and Delmar should be there at the end when it all washes out,” Panthers coach Lynn Richardson said. “It’s great competition for us, before we start the state tournament, playing the best two teams in the state.”
Polytech has only one senior on the roster but could make another deep postseason run after falling to Delmar in the semifinals last season. This year’s state tournament begins Nov. 5-6.
“The last two games have been like postseason for us, really,” Richardson said. “… I think our kids are just going to work hard, not only from now until Nov. 5 or 6, whenever we play, but they also know what they have to do to get to that next level. They will work hard in the offseason to get there.”
Rounding it up
* Two overall conference championships will be decided in volleyball on Wednesday. Flight A champion Charter of Wilmington will host Flight B champion St. Georges for the Blue Hen title at 6 p.m. North champion Polytech will meet South champion Delmar for the Henlopen Conference title at 7 p.m. at Dover High. Tickets for both games will be $5.
* A.I. du Pont is seeking a head coach for girls tennis. Send resumes to athletic director Mark Alley at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Nov. 8.