GOAL! State title caps Indian River’s soccer checklist

2 irhs soccer captains better one

Indian River High school boys’ soccer captains, from left, McClain Smith, Patrick Mochiam and Ian Walls with the Henlopen Conference and DIAA state championship hardware.

DAGSBORO – Sirens blared and flashing emergency vehicle lights lit up the town the evening of Saturday, Nov. 21 as fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers cruised at a snail’s pace through Dagsboro.

There was no cause for alarm.

This was a “We Are the Champions” celebration.

The royal escort was for the Indian River High School boys’ soccer team, which several hours earlier had blanked post-season nemesis Caravel 1-0 in the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Division II championship game in Smyrna.

“We must have had 40 fire trucks, police cars and ambulances escorting us back into town. Thank God there wasn’t a fire!” said Indian River Coach Steve Kilby. “We had all of the emergency equipment with us.”

It was Indian River’s second DIAA state title in boys’ soccer over a three-year span. Last year, Indian River’s post-season run ended with a loss to Caravel in the state semifinals.

Goalkeeper Ian Walls – the only senior in Indian River’s starting lineup – and juniors McClain Smith and Pat Mochiam shared team co-captain honors for Indian River, whose title-clinching conquest of Caravel capped a 10-game win streak and a 15-5 season.

Along the way Indian River defeated Cape Henlopen to claim overall Henlopen Conference bragging rights.

“The big three goals essentially we took one at a time: the division, conference and the state tournament,” said Walls. “We cut it down to just the division. Then once that was over we looked toward the conference. And then we looked toward the state. We had agreed that we would continue to get better after every game. That obviously showed after we got 10 straight wins.”

“We had to take it one game at a time,” said Mochiam, a fullback.

Back in September – on paper perhaps – it appeared Indian River was going nowhere fast. The Indians were 2-5. That record Coach Kilby says is somewhat deceiving.

“In our first seven games we played I think four or five Division I teams. We played four D-1 tournament teams and three of the teams that were in the state semifinals in the D-1 tournament,” Coach Kilby said.

Playing the blame game, the coach took the blame.

“We struggled a little bit. And the biggest part of those struggles was my fault: I had us playing the wrong system. We were looking at trying to play a 4-5-1 and we ended up changing to 4-3-3 because I have so many attacking players. That was very successful,” said Coach Kilby, in his 11th season as IR soccer coach.

Another factor, coach Kilby says, was Max Stong, who ended up starting as a center back for us.

“His development was wonderful. It allowed us to move Mikie Mochiam from a defensive role into a forward. He scored a lot of goals for us,” Coach Kilby said.

Seeds for Indian River’s banner season may have been planted long before the season began.

Captains’ practices – unofficial no-coaches-allowed sessions run by team co-captains – were launched the week after the 2014 school-year ended with an open invitation.

“That helped a lot. Everyone knew each other,” said Smith. “No one was really intimidated or scared. The freshmen were already comfortable. We invited everyone out. That played a big part.”

The captains sat down with Coach Kilby at Porto’s restaurant in downtown Dagsboro to discuss the 2015 season and team goals.

And of course there is the River Soccer Club program.

The three co-captains – among about eight players who were on IR’s 2013 and 2015 state championship teams – are products of that feeder program.

“I’ve been with them for like since third grade. Most of our players, we all do rec, we all do travel team. We all help out in the club,” said Walls. “That is essentially where we all come from, that one club.”

“A lot of our players are club players that were trained at River Soccer Club,” said Coach Kilby, who is the club’s director of coaching. “So it’s a big plus that to have guys that have formal training and understanding of the game.”

The goal-scoring hero in the title game was sophomore Oscar Cruz-Osorio.

Indeed, there is no continental divide in Indian River soccer. The team roster features numerous players with family ties to Central America where, like most of the world, the sport of soccer – or futbol – is king.

“We have a lot of Latino players. We have kids from Mexico. We have kids from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in our program,” said Coach Kilby. “They do bring a certain flair to our team, that’s for sure.”

Preparation for Indian River’s championship game included a school pep rally send-off. On game day, the father of a student actually drove a bus with 55 to 60 students.

“They all came up to the game and sat together and did different chants. That brought a lot of energy,” said Smith.

“It really does work. I mean when you have somebody screaming at you, screaming your name after you’ve scored a goal, or you made a huge play, it just keeps it going,” said Walls. “Having 50-plus of your classmates cheering you on, it’s certainly motivating. They want to see you win and that makes you want to win.”

Indian River’s surge from a 2-5 start began with a hard-earned 1-0 win over district rival Sussex Central. Momentum continued to build – interrupted only by a loss to Sussex Tech.

“In the beginning it started out rough,” said Mochiam. “We had a lot of adversity to overcome. When we were gaining all of the wins we were able to communicate well. Like Ian said, we just knew other. We have players that brought a lot of personality to the team, which helped us. Practice was more intense, too. Focus was the main word.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.