for 3rd Straight Win
Indian River 35, Lake Forest 19
Photos: Indian River end Paul Macielag and running back Robert "Peanut" Mitchell and tight end Paul Macielag
The Indian River High School football team continued to surprise the Henlopen Conference with its third consecutive victory.
The team that suffered through an 0-14 streak dating back to the 2000 season -- the longest losing streak in school history -- now stands at 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Division.
And for one day, the Indians are all alone in first place pending the Delmar-Milford game on Saturday, Oct. 12. The winner of that game will also be 2-0.
To top it off, the Indians have now won three straight games for the first time since they won four straight during their 8-2 season in 1998.
Head coach Jim Bunting likes the feeling, particularly after his club scored the most points it has scored since a 35-17 win over Seaford on Nov. 3, 2000, but he'll bring his players down to earth this week as they prepare for a game at two-time defending Division II state champion Delmar on Saturday, Oct. 19.
"We've got Delmar now so we'll have to get off our pedestal," said Bunting. "We'll have to play our 'A' game."
Bunting certainly doesn't expect to be blown out the way the Indians were in a 63-14 loss to Sussex Central in the season's second week.
"Against Sussex Central, our kids were intimidated and they quit," said Bunting. "I'm not saying we're thoroughbreds, but we have a good ballclub. I think the kids' confidence has actually picked up quicker than the coaching staff's.
"But we won't have to hold our breath. We just need to let the kids play and we can make it a ballgame. It seems like we should rip a page out of the kids' book now."
Most encouraging against Lake Forest were the Indians' 35 points, including a 21-0 halftime lead over the 2-4 Spartans.
The Indians managed only 12.75 points a game in their first four games before exploding behind fullback Therman Hagans and quarterback Ryan Warner.
Hagans rushed 31 times for 126 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run, and Warner completed 4 of 5 passes for 125 yards, including a 36-yard TD strike to end Paul Macielag, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. The totals were season's bests for both players.
A number of other players got into the act, too, as five different players scored for IR.
After Hagans' TD gave the Indians a 7-0 lead, running back Peanut Mitchell scampered in from 28 yards out for a 14-0 advantage, and Warner scored his touchdown for a 21-0 halftime advantage.
Lake Forest closed the gap to 21-7 in the third quarter, but Indian River responded with a 73-yard drive capped by Phil Hall's 26-yard scoring run.
Warner then connected with Macielag to give the Indians a 35-13 advantage.
The big plays represented a major shift in the game plan for the Indians, who were forced to switch from their big backfield to their speed backfield when fullback Matt Higdon went out with an injury early on.
"I don't want to say that was a blessing in disguise," said Bunting of Higdon's injury. "With the weather, our game plan was five yards and a cloud of mud because that's what he (Higdon) does best. When he went down, we went to our speed backfield and they did very well."
The defense continued to play well also. In their three straight wins, the Indians have held their opponents to an average of 11.7 points per game.
Against Lake Forest, linebacker Justin Hoban led the way with 4 solo tackles and 8 assists. Defensive tackle Mike Phillips added 4 solos and 4 assists, while Mike Whetstone and Chris White recovered fumbles.
The Indians travel to Delmar for a 1 p.m. Henlopen South contest on Saturday, Oct. 19. IR lost to Delmar 42-6 last year and 35-6 in 2000. The Indians beat Delmar 15-12 in 1999.
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