The defending Division II state champions from Indian River High easily disposed of Howard Vo-Tech 35-14 Nov. 16 in the first round of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Football Tournament behind a massive ground attack that tallied more than 300 yards.
The win moves the fourth-seeded Indians to 9-2 and into a semifinals matchup against top-seeded and undefeated Caravel Academy in Bear Friday, Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m. IR defeated the Buccaneers 35-13 in the state final last year.
IR's offensive game plan was simple - ground and pound. With very few pass attempts, IR coach Ray Steele relied on the talents of his seniors. Aarron Moore rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns; quarterback Marquel Knight recorded more than 200 yards on the ground and a touchdown, and halfback Jalen Griffin scored a 10-yard touchdown to round out the senior-heavy offensive effort.
Despite the big offensive numbers, the Indians trailed early. After IR fumbled the opening kickoff and stalled on its first offensive possession, Howard's Marvell Watts scored from the 8-yard line to give the Wildcats an 8-0 lead.
“Coming off the Central loss and then fumbling the opening kickoff and letting them score, you could just see it in their eyes,” Steele said. “They were wondering, 'Are we playing good teams now? Is it us, or what?' But we answered pretty quick. As soon as we answered, I thought we were going to be OK. They kind of got that swagger back.”
Knight's 25-yard run and subsequent two-point conversion tied the game late in the first quarter. It was all the Indians needed to get back on track. IR scored 35 straight points after Howard's first score to take a commanding 35-8 lead in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats scored a late touchdown on a short pass, but were already too far behind.
While the Indians dominated in all phases of the game, the team still had trouble holding onto the ball. With four turnovers, Steele's team continued to struggle with a problem that has plagued them all season long.
“We worked real hard after Sussex [Central] because we thought a fumble up there hurt us bad,” he said. “We worked real hard on ball carrying and putting the ball away, and we still put it on the ground tonight a couple of times. That is something we're working on all the time.”
IR still won the turnover battle, however, forcing six Howard fumbles in the game. The Wildcats finished the season 9-3.