By Kevin Eickman
For most football players, when the whistle signaling the end to your final game, that is it. In Delaware however, there can be one final game left to play. One last chance to strap the pads on and play at the high school level. That opportunity is the annual DFRC Blue-Gold football game. The centerpiece of a year round fund raising effort, the program impacts the lives of Delaware citizens with intellectual disabilities.
This year is an extra special one for Milford, as they will not only be represented by two of Milford’s finest scholar athletes but former Buccaneer head coach Mike Tkack will be coaching his final game. While being selected on its own is quite an honor, the fact that one of his players and his son has only added to the anticipation for the upcoming game this Saturday.
Along with Milford graduate Rafiq Henry, Tkach’s son Michael has been named to this year’s squad. During some conditioning work this past week, one thing was seen for certain. All involved are eagerly anticipating the week that kicked off this past Sunday. “The week that we get to spend in preparation is very hard to explain, for all the players they get something special out of it,” coach Tkach said. “For most of these guys, they have been competing against each other all through high school, now they get a chance to really get to know them.”
Rafiq Henry was a football player and honors student while attending Milford, but to those lucky enough to have seen him up close he was much more than that. He is the type of high character individual that most of us strive to be. Henry suffered through some difficult times due to injuries at Milford but he never gave up. He produced a solid senior season and garnering consistent praise from everyone who knows him. “Rafiq is the rare individual who has rare talent, but also the insight to know that he can do better.” Dr. David Carter added “He sat down with me a few months ago and we worked out a plan to help him achieve his potential. Since then, he has been working harder than ever to be the best football player he can be.”
Henry is very happy with the selection and hopes to represent Milford well when he plays. “It’s a fantastic honor to be named to the team, I am going to do everything I can to represent my school and myself as best as I can,” Henry stated. Henry played linebacker during his time as a Buccaneer and hopes to do the same at Lincoln University. “I plan on studying physical education while at Lincoln and would love to come back here to be a teacher as well as coach.” Henry said. No athlete does it alone and it has been no different for Henry. All through his high school career his family was there for him. “My family pushed me to be as good as I am, in particular my father helped me with being my best on the football field,” he said. “My dad was there at every game and always pushed me to get the best out of myself.”
Michael Tkach has the unique privilege of playing for his father. Michael is another solid student and quality individual both on and off the field. While playing for his father presented some unique challenges, Michael was able to improve his game every year while at Milford. Besides playing fullback for the Bucs, Michael also picked up kicking duties during his time with Milford. The one constant for Michael has been his hard work. “Michael Tkach has made it a point to improve himself at every opportunity, the effort that he gave has been incredible,” said Dr. Carter, former Milford High School Principal and football coach. “He’s a player that is real scrappy, very tough but at the same time real heady.”
The fact that this will be his last game as a high school coach has not been lost on Mike Tkach, it is something he has reflected greatly on. “We haven’t even started our week of practice yet and already I am having emotions race through me,” Tkach stated. “To be coaching Rafiq and Michael is just fantastic, obviously coaching your own son in a game like this is something you can’t even put into words.”
Joining Tkach on the coaching staff will be long time assistant Tim Fisher, who Tkach is honored to be sharing the coaching duties with one final time. “Tim has been such a great coach, but more importantly he has been a great friend to me,” Tkach said. “He put everything he had into coaching and is simply a fantastic human being.”
The Blue-Gold game is this Saturday night at the University of Delaware, tickets can be purchased at the game or on-line. Pregame festivities are a must see and should not be missed.