Indian River High School's football team prepares for its showdown with Dover.
Indian River’s football team, just two games into the season, finds itself in some unfamiliar territory.
For the first time in recent memory, thanks to a 49-19 defeat at Caravel’s hands last week, the Indians are assured of entering Henlopen South play with at least one loss.
That, however, is not what concerns longtime head coach Jim Bunting.
“We are going to see [at practice], just who is committed to giving their best,” he explained. “Desire, attitude and hustle, those are three things we need to see out of these guys.”
Bunting is concerned with a perceived lack of effort in the loss to the Buccaneers, both mentally and physically.
The coach, who has sent six straight teams into the Division II postseason, firmly believes that football is 80% mental and 20% physical, and it is the Indians’ collective heads that concern him the most.
“We owe it to the guys who built this program to come out and give 100% every play,” Bunting said. “If we do that and still get beat because another team is better prepared or just has more [athletic skill], then so be it.”
Across the field Friday night when the Indians travel to Dover, they may very well see a more athletically talented team.
Dover features several skill position players that blend size and speed, starting with its dual-threat quarterback.
Add to the mix some receivers that rise more than 6 feet tall and a shifty running back, and IR’s defense will have plenty of work to do.
“They are big up front and at the skill positions, so we cannot afford to be in the wrong place when they have the ball,” Bunting said of the Senators. “Plus, they are going to spread us out and their quarterback can make plays with his legs and arm.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge.”
Even if the squad drops the bout to the Senators, Bunting made sure to point out that all would not be lost.
Although the Indians could gain some valuable playoff points with a victory, the club still has its entire Southern Division schedule remaining and a conference win equals an automatic postseason berth.
“One year we went 0-3 to start the season and came back to get into the playoffs,” he said. “We scheduled these teams like Cape [Henlopen], Caravel and Dover, because with our old schedule, we didn’t know what to expect once we got [into the playoffs].
“Now we know, and the question is, how will we respond.”
Jeff Mitchell is a staff writer at the Sussex Countian, a sister paper to the Dover Post.