Indian River leaned on running back duo of George Martin and Gerald Foreman all evening.
But when they needed a big play the most, the Indians pulled the unexpected.
With the ball on the 37 down 15-12 in the fourth quarter to Milford, Martin took the toss but didn’t advance forward.
The halfback chucked a long pass down the field to a wide open Deshawn Aiken, who hauled it in at the 6-yard line with a minute left in the game.
“My heart was beating as fast as it can,” Martin said. “I just threw the ball. I didn’t really think about putting on a spot.”
After Foreman was stuffed on first down, Martin punched it in from 5 yards out to give Indian River (3-3) the 22-18 win against Milford (4-2).
Martin finished the game with 138 yards and three touchdowns, and Foreman rushed for 104.
But the Indians could not count out the Buccaneers.
After IR took a 15-12 lead with 5:17 left in the game – on a Martin 3-yard touchdown run and Foreman two-point conversion – the Bucs responded.
Milford scored with a three-play, 90-yard drive in one minute to take the 18-15 lead.
The Buccaneers’ workhorse David Bowman had two carries, one for 50 and the other for 38 yards to give Milford the 18-15 lead.
Bowman finished the game with 159 yards and a touchdown for Milford.
“David Bowman is a workhorse,” Milford head coach Shaun Strickland said. “When it comes to heart and determination, he’s got it. For his size, he’s got a bulk of it. You’ll never have to second guess him.”
After the Indians took the final lead with 1:04 left, Bowman almost pulled it back for the Bucs.
Taking the squib kick on the 20-yard line, Bowman found a hole.
He was gone.
Except for the one foot that stepped out of bounds on the 47-yard line of the Indians.
“He was forced out of bounds,” Strickland said. “Hey, they make a great play. He did a great job getting free.”
Milford was able to get the 43 but two passes by backup quarterback Marcus Correa fell incomplete.
On the final one, Foreman deflected it away.
Indian River had to run one final play.
The victory formation with senior quarterback Jake Hudson.
The recently crowned homecoming king took a knee to seal the game.
“It means a lot,” IR head coach Phillip Townsend said. “Our guys, first three games, I felt like we didn’t play 48 minutes of football. …This week, we came back and won 22-18. Our guys are now playing together as a team and four quarters.
“It’s going to make the difference.”
In the first half, the Indians could have run away with the game. Milford totaled just 36 yards in the first half while IR totaled 229.
It was the mistakes that cost the Bucs. A kickoff return for a touchdown by Rashawn Price was called back for holding in the first quarter. Still with good field position, Bowman fumbled in the red zone to give IR the ball back.
“They didn’t hang their heads,” Strickland said. “We kept fighting. We’re still not there yet where we can come out and make mistakes.”
On the Indians’ drive, the Bucs caught a break. Attempting a 29-yard field goal, Andrew White’s kick was blocked and fell right into the arms of Son Martinez, who scampered down the sideline for the 91-yard score with one minute left tin the first quarter.
The Indians had taken the lead on Martin’s first of three touchdowns on the night, but the score stayed idol 7-6 until halftime.
Quarterback William Kimmel opened the scoring in the second half for Milford with a 15-yard touchdown run 1:50 into the half.
But Martin would rally the troops with two more touchdowns to get the win for IR.
Milford will likely have to win every game to make the playoffs.
“All of them,” Strickland said. “As I told the kids today, ‘We’re in a must-win situation if you want to go after the Henlopen South.’ “
Indian River improved to 3-0 in the Henlopen South after losing its first three games of the season.
Seaford, Laurel and Friday’s Milford win was big for IR.
Now, Lake Forest, who beat Laurel on Friday, and IR are both 3-0 in the division.
But the Indians are OK with that.
After Bowman’s rushing touchdown to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, Martin and the team talked.
The Indians knew they needed a win. Now, with three more south games against Woodbridge, Delmar and Lake Forest, it’s a must-win mentality for IR.
“If we lose any of the south games, our playoff hopes are going to get shot down,” Martin said. “We have to win every game here on out. Setting our sights on the next game is the biggest thing for us.”