By Kevin Eickman
Last season the Milford Buccaneers waited until the sixth week of the season before posting their first, and only victory of the season. Thanks to a display of heart and determination, the Bucs won’t be waiting that long this season. Highlighted by big plays and defensive resolve, Milford surprised the visiting Raiders at Briggs stadium Friday night.
Taking the game opening kickoff and promptly losing yardage on a combination of penalties and poor play execution Milford got out of the box slowly. With the Buccaneers going three and out, Concord started their opening possession at midfield. The Raiders wasted little time taking advantage of the opportunity presented to them, driving 50 yards for the games opening score with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter. With the successful conversion, Concord jumped out to a 7-0 lead
Milford proceeded to drive into Concord territory, with a key third down conversion coming on third and two from the Raider 27 yard line. On the play, senior quarterback Nick Jefferson connected with junior Nathan Poore for a 22 yard strike down the right sideline. The play was indicative of the new offensive philosophy that Milford is building under the direction of head coach Mike Tkach.
“We have traditionally been a power I team, but our personnel don’t really fit that mold this season.” said Tkach. “We are strong at the wide receiver position, and feel that we can take advantage of that and run out of the spread.”
Having been pushed back at the start of the second quarter by a penalty, junior Octavion Wilson carried left for a ten yard touchdown run, providing the Buccaneers with their first score of the game. Upon a successful extra point by senior Philip Berry, Milford drew even with Concord 7-7.
Concord began the second half in the same fashion as the first. Driving down the field against Milford, mixing both the pass and run in a textbook drive. The Raiders capped the drive with a 24 yard run by junior Matthew Mellete. Concord failed to convert the extra point making the score 13-7. That missed extra point would play a key factor in the game.
Last season, this was the point where Milford would start to talk about what a “good try” it was and the search for the silver lining would begin. On the the ensuing kick off however, Ocatvion Wilson made it clear to the Milford faithful, that this isn’t last year. With the kick return team providing solid blocking, and Wilson running like a man possessed, Wilson raced 85 yards to pay dirt, tying up the game and bringing the crowd to it’s feet.
“When the ball came to me, I knew I could make a play,” said Wilson. Adding “You have to leave it all on the field, if you don’t do everything you can you haven’t done anything.” With the successful conversion Milford took a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Milford would demonstrate just how tough their defense could be, with their backs against the wall and digging deep for everything they had. As the Raiders went for it on fourth and goal from the Milford two yard line, Concord was met by a host of Buccaneers, led by junior Andrew Marshall, stopping the play at the Milford one yard line. As possession was changed to Milford, Nick Grant was able to give Milford the crucial room they needed to punt by running for 3 yards on third down. Just that small amount of space gave Berry the room he needed to punt the ball to Milford’s 45 yard line.
During the ensuing possession on a Raider pass play, the Milford pass rush burst through and forced the ball out of quarterback Tyler Pini’s hand. Milford senior Zachary Rickards grabbed the ball out of the air and was off to the races. Rumbling 55 yards and launching the crowd into a frenzy. “I was just in the right place at the right time, I was on a blitz and in the spot I was supposed to be in.” Rickards added “Our defense played hard all night, from the start of the game everyone laid it all on the line.”
With Milford now leading 21-13, it would be up to that defense to preserve the victory. With Concord desperate for a score, they took over on their own 30 yard line with just over 6 minutes remaining. The Raiders wasted little time, executing a draw play that saw Mellete break two tackles on his way to a 70 yard scamper making the score 21-19. Once again the Milford defense would be put to the test, and once again they would respond. The junior defensive back read the two point conversion attempt brilliantly, jumping an out route and preserving the Milford lead
The Milford defense didn’t allow Concord past midfield again. The win gave Milford their first win against a division I opponent since September 24, 2010. While Milford was happy with the victory, they understood that the game was the result of hard work and dedication.
“We are very proud of how we performed tonight, everyone gave everything they had.” Tkach added. “When we made the decision to recommit ourselves this is the type of effort we expected.” Tkach also believes that they can improve as the season goes on. “This group is committed to getting better, they are willing to put in the hard work to make that happen.”
Milford will host defending division two champions Indian River next Friday at 7:30. Head Coach Tkach expects a tough game. “While they don’t have Jarmon any more, Coach Steele will have his team ready to go, said Tkach. “We know it is going to be a challenge.”