By Kevin Eickman
When you finish a football season 1-9 there usually isn’t too much to be happy about. When you take a look at the total body of work for the Milford Buccaneers year, there are several reasons to be optimistic for the future of Buccaneer football. The best way to look at the Bucs season is to break it down into two halves. The beginning of Milford’s season was at best difficult, at worst it was brutal.
Milford faced off against two D-1 foes in Sussex Teach and Cape Henlopen, with highly regarded D-2 opponent Delaware Military Academy sandwiched in between. The result was zero points for the Buccaneers. Off to an 0-3 start, it looked like it was going to be a long and unproductive season for Milford.
Following their third consecutive shutout loss, things began to change for Milford. Young and a bit small up front, the offensive and defensive lines began to develop. Once that happened, the team grew more confident with each passing game. Milford would be shutout no more and found themselves in a few games they could have won. The result was a growing respect for Milford and with that came recognition from the Henlopen South coaches.
Rafiq Henry, senior linebacker: Henry was named second team All-Conference. This play making middle linebacker had a tough year of it, with a still maturing defensive front, he was forced to shed more than his fair share of blocks by opposing offensive lineman. While it may not have been a dream season for Henry, his effort and leadership was impressive “It was like having a coach on the field, he made sure everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing,” coach Mike Tkach stated. “He is such a fierce competitor, and the true definition of a leader.”
Patrick Wheeler, senior wide receiver: Wheeler was named second team All-Conference. The Milford passing game struggled as the season began and although it never really became a constant threat, Wheeler was a player who improved with each successive game. Wheeler was the most sure handed of the Milford receivers and could always be counted on for his sure hands. Like everyone else on this list, Wheeler’s accolades are the results of his hard work. “Patrick is one of those guys that puts on the work, he is constantly trying to make himself and those around him better.” Tkach said. “His route running was his greatest strength, and he made sure to share his knowledge with the other receivers. He would make sure they understood what they needed to do to make a route work.”
Michael Tkach, senior athlete: Tkach was given honorable mention for his versatility this season as a Buccaneer. While primarily a fullback, Michael could be seen lined up in various positions as the need would arise. In addition to his versatility on offense, Michael also handed the place kicking duties and even stepped in to handle the punting chores also, when that was required. “Michael is one of those kids that just works and works. He dedicated all last season to becoming bigger and stronger.” coach Tkach stated. “He was elected captain by his teammates and was a leader on the field, as well as in the weight room.”
Shawn Snowden, junior tight end, receiver, running back: Snowden was given second team All-Conference. Snowden was another player who continued to improve as the season developed. His versatility is his greatest asset. Able to beat single coverage on the outside or power through a defender on an off-tackle play, Snowden is a player with a big upside. “Shawn has a great deal of potential, he made some big plays for us this season, we think he can be even better next year,” Tkach stated.
David Bowman, freshman running back: Bowman garnered second team All-Conference in just his first year as a Buccaneer. While it was expected that Bowman would play a part in his first season in high school, nobody could predict how big a year it would be for him. Utilized as the teams primary halfback, Bowman impressed from the start. Bowman possesses a natural gift for running the football and with each passing game it became evident that he has the potential to be something very special. Bowman not only played well at half back, but added to his offensive repertoire when he led the Milford offense while running the “Wildcat”. Despite his lack of stature, Bowman is a ferocious hitter on defense as well. “Bowman is as fierce as they come, it doesn’t matter what side of the ball he is playing on,” Tkach stated. “He would take hard hits and just pop right back up. He would tackle some of the biggest players on the other team, and just take them right to the ground.”
While their accomplishments on the field are impressive, Tkach believes it is how these young men conduct themselves off the field that sets them apart. “All of these guys are A and B students. They get it done in the classroom as well,” commented Tkach. “They are all such great people as well, they are the types of students that make Milford proud.”