PHILADELPHIA — With the opportunity of hosting a Section 3 semifinal, the Indian River football team responded with a workmanlike effort on both sides of the ball to continue its surge through the playoffs.
Seniors Gabe Lynch and Rowan Marsell each ran for two touchdowns and the Warriors’ defense delivered a stalwart effort en route to downing West Genesee, 30-8, in a Class A semifinal on a brisk Friday night.
Top-seeded Indian River, which improves to 6-0, advances to play sixth-seeded Christian Brothers Academy in the Class A title game at 8 p.m. next Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
“It feels really good because back in my sophomore year, my first year on varsity we got denied,” Lynch said. “And it just feels go to not get denied and this and be able to make it my senior year.”
The Warriors scored on their first two drives of the game — with a touchdown run from Lynch and Marsell to set the tone.
“Definitely, we came out strong, we knew that their defense was one of the best defenses in Section 3 Class A,” Marsell said. “So we game planned for is and we executed very well.”
The two scores were sandwiched around a big defensive play early on. After Lynch burst free on a 26-yard touchdown one minute and 38 seconds into game to cap a six-play, 65-yard drive to open the game, Indian River led 8-0 after Michael Davis’ conversion run.
“The start was very important, we set the tone early,” Lynch said. “It felt good to set the tone early and it was our (offensive line) again, that’s a big reason for our success.”
But the Wildcats quickly threatened as Dominick Burris returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Warriors’ 15-yard line.
But after West Genesee (5-2) reached the 8-yard line, it was forced to turn the ball over on downs on an incomplete pass on fourth down.
After the early defensive stand, Indian River engineered a 90-yard drive in seven plays, with 65 of those yards coming on Marsell’s first scoring run of the night as he powered his way through and then sped down the left sideline. The Warriors led 16-8 after Marsell’s conversion pass to Connor McMahon with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
“It was a great football game with two good teams,” West Genesee coach Joe Corley said. “I’ve got to give Indian River a lot of credit, I have a lot of respect for them, they’re a great program and the way they played tonight reflects that.”
The Wildcats then struck for their touchdown on a 32-yard scamper from sophomore running back Francisco Cross to pull within 16-8 with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter.
But West Genesee, which managed only 87 yards from scrimmage in the first half, would not score again.
“The defense played a great game,” Indian River coach Cory Marsell said. “Listen, the most points anyone scored on that team was 21 and that was (Fayetteville-Manlius) at the beginning of the year. ... We scored 30 points on them and we were driving at the end of the game. The offensive effort was great, defensive effort was great, it was just a great team win.”
“Just their discipline,” Corley said of Indian River. “Their execution is so precise and so sharp, you can tell they’re really well coached and well prepared — and they’re good at what they do. You’ve got to respect that.”
Two possessions later, Rowan Marsell added a touchdown on a two-yard run and, after Davis scored on the conversion run, Indian River led 24-8 with 7:07 left in the first half.
Then after the Wildcats drove to the Warriors’ 19, the drive was halted when Reshawn Prince intercepted a pass with 6:22 remaining.
“I think so, we were all worried about West Genny and stuff like that, but we came out on top,” Warriors defensive tackle Jake Whitmore said. “So I think we played well. ... We covered a lot of different coverages in practice and it just worked out.”
Indian River also denied West Genesee on its first possession of the second half as Ramsey Burnard recorded an interception with 8:25 left in the quarter.
“I think this was our best defensive performance all year, I really do, their quarterback (River Oudemool) is really good,” Cory Marsell said. “You saw Jake with the tackles and our (defensive backs) were fantastic, they were right were they needed to be almost the whole game.”
Lynch added a one-yard scoring run to boost the Warriors to a 30-8 lead with 9:17 left in the game.
“To be able to get a second-half shutout against that team is pretty impressive,” Lynch said. “I would say our defense definitely showed what we can do in this section.”
Rowan Marsell, who entered the game with 999 rushing yards in five games, gained 178 yards on 23 carries, with 143 yards in the first half. Lynch finished with 111 yards on the ground on 22 carries, while Davis totaled 57 rushing yards on 10 touches.
“I will say this, they are a real class program, really well coached and our kids really earned this one,” Cory Marsell said of West Genesee.
Indian River moves on to its first Section 3 final since 2018 when Whitmore was a freshman starter on the defensive line.
“It feels great because there are a lot of kids who didn’t get to experience that who are up with us now,” Whitmore said.
The Warriors will face CBA (5-3), which knocked off Fayetteville-Manlius, 22-12, in Friday’s other semifinal. Indian River defeated CBA, 51-30, on Oct. 7.
“It’s a dream for us to play in the (Carrier) Dome (in Syracuse) ever since we were little, we always wanted to get here,” Rowan Marsell said. “It’s a dream come true, so we’ve got to show up next Friday ready to play.”
“Stay focused, stay humble and just get ready for the Dome game next week,” Lynch said. “And then just keep moving on, hopefully.”
ADIRONDACK 36, SANDY CREEK 6
Brett Sanford scored three touchdowns as the second-seeded Wildcats topped the sixth-seeded Comets in a Section 3 Class D semifinal at Central Valley Academy in Ilion.
Sanford scored on runs of 2, 3 and 13 yards for Adirondack (9-0), which takes on top-seeded Dolgeville in the title game 5 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome.
Jacob Strain returned a fumble 17 yards for a score while Colin White added a TD run from four yards out for the Wildcats.
Justin Thayer scored on a 2-yard run for the Comets (3-5) to get within 8-6, but the Wildcats scored the game’s last 28 points.