CARTHAGE — Chants of “IR” bellowed from the huddled Warriors after their 58-6 win over Carthage on Wednesday night. A beatdown of that magnitude had the Warriors feeling a certain way, especially after being on the losing end of a similar beatdown last season.
“We had all of the motivation,” Indian River lineman, Garrett Decker said. “Right from that day, after that, we got to work. We knew that (the loss) stuck with us and here we are a year and a half later. I didn’t think it would happen. I didn’t think we’d get another chance to play them, I thought that was going to be it for my career against Carthage.”
The Warriors weren’t playing the same Carthage team from 2019, those Comets were senior-heavy. But a chance to take down a rival never goes unappreciated.
“It feels great, they lost a lot of their seniors, a lot of good players, stuff like that,” defensive lineman, Jake Whitmore said. “We lost a couple, but we have some good players back. You have to look at it like that, they lost a lot of people, they’re filling in. It’s a good win, but it’s like back and forth. We’re going to lose people next year, so you never know what’s going to happen. I’m kind of like, we have to stay calm, we have to stay collected. Don’t get into our heads. When they’re talking all over the field, I’m like, we have to chill out a little bit.”
Offensively, the Warriors rolled, just as they did against South Jefferson last Friday. Four different running backs found the end zone and While Michael Davis and Gabe Lynch each rushed for over 100 yards — 176 and 131 rushing yards respectively.
Defensively, they limited the Comets running game dramatically, allowing Carthage to break off only one significant run, a 75-yarder by Carter Kempney in the second half. Jake Whitmore, slotted in at nose tackle, led the Warriors with 10 tackles.
“We switched up certain things, like watching specific people,” Whitmore said. “And I put it into overdrive.”
Whitmore is certainly no stranger to nose tackle, he’s had experience at the position in the last couple of years. Whitmore doesn’t always know if he’ll be playing defensive tackle or nose tackle until his coaches make that determination based on the opponent. The junior doesn’t shy away from that versatility.
“I like both positions equally,” Whitmore said. “I can do certain things at different spots.”
Whitmore’s talent allows his coaches to exercise the freedom of moving him to different spots.
“His physicality, his strength and speed,” Coach Cory Marsell said. “We haven’t seen many kids like him, just a really strong fast kid.”
While Indian River looked like Indian River for four quarters, Carthage struggled to find the momentum that came so easy to the program a year and a half ago. Granted It’s a much different team. Gone are the days of Fombo Azah, Thomas Albright, Nick Cavellier and Collin Null. Carthage’s two most productive players on Wednesday night were, senior, Josh Demko and, junior, Carter Kempney, with Kempney carrying the majority of the offensive load.
“Even though my offensive line is really young, I thought we would do a better job of understanding what was going on, and I was little disappointed with that,” Coach Jason Coffman said. “The positive is that we can learn from this a lot. They aren’t going to see another team that plays as aggressively on defense as (Indian River). We have to learn from it and we have to get better.”
With a game under its belt, and a week before its next game, Coffman is anticipating a productive week of practice for the Comets.
“We can point out the mistakes, we can point out the positives and we can point out where we need to get better and where we need to get a lot better,” Coffman said. “We knew what we were getting into, as coaches we were hoping for the best, but sometimes it doesn’t go that way. I felt like we had a good game plan, and sometimes the best game plan doesn’t go well.”
Indian River’s physicality arguably came out most at the start of the second half, when their offense was flagged for back-to-back penalties.
“What I loved, and nobody else would, were all those penalties that backed us up, because we were getting nasty and we were getting physical,” Marsell said. “Now, if they were after the play, that’s not ok. Other than that, it was us trying to show what our identity is, we have to be a physical football team.”
This isn’t to say penalties are a good thing, but in the context of the Wednesday’s game against Carthage, Marsell viewed them as an indication of his teams desire to be physical.
“If you take a look at those, if they were too late, that’s not ok, but if they were right at the whistle and they’re throwing that flag, that’s ok, we’re ok with that,” Marsell said. “Because we preach that you have to block to the whistle. And if you do that, and you get penalized for it and we yell at them, then they’re going to stop doing it. So, we’re ok with that.”