By Kevin Eickman
Over the last four years, the Milford Buccaneers football team has been battling in the Henlopen Northern division. While they have been at times competitive, they have also at times been greatly outmatched. Milford would often find themselves in games, but struggled with depth more times then not.
Last year the Buccaneers started out with a great deal of promise, opening the season with big victories over Concord, as well as the defending Division-II champion Indian River. Following that however, Milford could only record one other victory against Mount Pleasant. The 3-7 record was something that coach Mike Tkach is looking to improve on. “Last year was a tough year for us, we started strong but faded as the injuries started to mount.” Tkach said.
This year’s version of the Bucs promises to be a highly entertaining team, with quality players at the skill positions. Returning for their senior seasons will be Vance Daniels and Octavion Wilson. When on the field last season, the two play-makers presented serious match-up problems for opposing defensive units. “With Vance and OT on the field, we have the capability to really stretch a defense,” Tkach said. “We can also take the opportunity to line Vance up and run a “zone-read”, to give the other team one more thing they have to prepare for.”
Two seniors joining the Bucs this season will be Jason Parker and Tikeace Harris; players Tkach believes can be key contributors “These two young men are fantastic athletes, capable of making plays and helping us.”
With Nick Jefferson graduating last year, sophomore Cole Davis will be the signal caller for Milford. While inexperienced, Tkach believes that Davis has what it takes to lead the offense. “He is a tall lanky kid with a big, strong arm,” commented Tkach. “Because of his passing ability, there will be times when we will be able to line up three and four wide. We will be able to spread the field out, and really be able to apply pressure to the defense.
One area that Milford will have to focus on is the offensive line. While this promises to be a talented group, there is a lack of experience and Tkach believes that this could provide for some rough moments in the early going. “We have some younger guys on the offensive line, but they are good football players,” he said. “As the season goes on, they are going to grow stronger and get better.”
On defense the line will be anchored by Andrew Marshall, the senior that came on the second half of last season and has the potential to be a dominant force up front. “Andrew is a very special talent, he can demand double and even triple teams sometimes,” stated Tkach. “With a force like that on the line, he can open up a great many things for the other guys on defense.” With a big push up front this will provide plenty of opportunity for senior linebackers Rafiq Henry and Ben Mitzel to make some big plays.
On the issue of leadership, Tkach believes that this year’s group of seniors has what it takes to lead the way for the rest of the team. “All of our seniors are such a big part of this, some of them are vocal, some just lead by example,” said Tkach.“We are also going to need some of the younger guys to step up, you don’t have to be a senior to be a leader.”
There has also been some changes to the coaching staff, with Jack Simon coming back on a fulltime basis. But one aspect of the coaching staff that has Tkach excited is the infusion of young coaches, most of them returning to Milford to lend a hand. “Joel Sullivan has been with us for a while, and now Jed Bell and Ryan Deeney have come home,” explained Tkach. “In addition we have Blake Faulkner who has been on our staff for a while, but is another Milford player that has returned to the family.”
The schedule will not do the Buccaneers any favors, as they open up against Cape Henlopen this Friday night at home. Cape was a Division-I playoff team last season, and picked by many to challenge for the Henlopen North title this year. They follow that up with a road trip to the University of Delaware, to play against Division-II playoff qualifier from last season, Delaware Military Academy. Milford rounds out their first three games hosting Sussex Tech, another Division-I opponent
“We know that the start of the season will be difficult, but our goal is to come out of it a better team for it,” stated Tkach. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, and we earn points just for playing those Division-I teams.” The game Friday night starts at 7:30pm and will feature the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at halftime.