By Kevin Eickman
There was never going to be anything easy about it, Milford and Delmar had battled twice previously this season and were unable to determine who the better team was. With the teams splitting their regular season match ups, the end result was a winner take all Henlopen South Championship game at Cape Henlopen high school this past Wednesday.
The game was similar to the first two affairs, with neither team able to seize a strong advantage. Milford would score early as senior Zach Heesh scored in the first quarter to put the Buccaneers up. It was the first of two goals on the evening for Heesh and would set the tone for a game in which Milford never trailed.
While they may have never trailed, Milford was never comfortably in front. One of the key factors for Milford was the ability to score a pair of key goals with time winding down on the clock. On both occasions the scores came courtesy of senior Matt Viramontes. The first came just after Delmar had narrowed the score to 3-2 with time winding down in the first quarter. With the clock ticking Viramontes worked his way open fifteen yards out from the Delmar goal, letting go with a hard shot that found the back of the net and gave Milford a 4-2 lead with just .9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Delmar seemed to have much the better of play in the third quarter as Milford became a bit careless with the ball. With the Wildcats gaining multiple possessions, they appeared to gain the upper hand and had Milford back on their heals. They would close the period trailing 5-4, but the game seemed to be shifting in their favor.
With Delmar continuing to assert themselves, it was just a matter of time before they equalized. This moment came halfway through the third quarter, knotting the game at five and setting the stage for another thriller. Following the goal however, Milford began to assert themselves, beginning with a stiffening of the defense. It seemed as if every time Delmar would take the lead, the defense would step up. Senior Ben Mitzel along with junior Michael Holstein clamped down on the Delmar attackers and became ground ball machines for the rest of the game.
With time winding down in the third, once again Viramontes found the goal, this time with just seven seconds remaining. Giving Milford a lead they would not relinquish, they would only add to it midway through the fourth quarter and then it was time to hang on. For that they would rely on the stout defense and junior goal keeper Clay Stevenson. The Milford net minder was brilliant when it counted most, turning back huge shots, including a point blank shot with just a minute to go in the game.
“It’s a common save for me, one I have to make,” Stevenson said matter of factually.
Milford would hold on for a 7-5 victory and their first ever Henlopen South championship. One thing is for certain, it never would have happened without the effort of senior face off specialist Dylan Schleigh. Earlier in the month, Schleigh had encountered difficulties against Caravel and Delmar, it was something he knew he had to work on.
“I wasn’t happy with those games, but one thing I have learned is that there is only one way to fix a problem, that’s to work on it,” Schleigh stated. “I just dug down deeper and did more work, tonight that effort really paid off.” Coach Blake Faulkner is very happy to have a player of Schleigh’s quality on his squad. “He does so much for us that I don’t think I can thank him enough, it’s a blessing for us going forward.” Faulkner stated.
Milford will host Dover in a first round tournament game, 7pm this Wednesday.