When Milford traveled to Indian River this past Friday, they knew that they were going to be going up against one of the better teams they had seen all season. While Milford was sporting a 4-1 record, they knew that they were going to be tested by the Indians.
The Buccaneers were far from spectacular Friday night, running less than 10 plays in the first half as Indian River moved the ball up and down the field. There Milford was however, attempting to battle back one last time, trying to hold on a lead with just a minute to go. The Bucs defense had battled valiantly on this one last attempt to stop the Indians. Time was running down, with just one minute remaining in the game and the Indians knocking on the Milford door. With the Indians having run the ball well all night, the Buccaneers had been forced to sell out against it in an attempt to stop the bleeding. In the end it would be their undoing as Indian River ran the halfback option pass to perfection, scoring the game winning touchdown with just 55 seconds left.
While senior David Bowman would give Milford life, returning the ensuing kickoff to mid-field, Milford could do nothing with it. They eventually turned the ball over on downs to the victorious Indians. For all the heroics of Bowman, Milford was left looking in the mirror and thinking about all the chances they let get away.
From the start of the game, it was apparent that Milford was going to have a tough time stopping the Indian River rushing attack. The hosts would take the opening drive 73 yards, scoring a touchdown from five yards out. The problem was that it never really should have been a touchdown, Indian River was lined up for a field goal attempt from the 10 yard line, when the first of many Milford miscues occurred. The Buccaneers jumped off sides prior to the snap, moving them to the five yard line for the Indians.
“Mistakes, we made a lot of them tonight,” coach Shaun Strickland stated. “We can’t squander our chances and expect to win against a good football team like this.”
Milford would have plenty of chances on the evening, starting on the very next play following Indian River going up 7-0. Freshman Rahshawn Price would return the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, another mistake by Milford would prove costly. With Price practically in the end zone, Milford committed a block in the back penalty, taking the touchdown off the board. Milford would set up shop at the Indian River 20 yard line and promptly fumble the ball on their second play from scrimmage.
Following the turnover Indian River went on the march again, driving the ball deep into Buccaneer territory. With Milford finally stiffening, Indian River was poised to settle for a field goal. Milford came up with a big play however, bursting through the line and blocking the kick. Senior Son Martinez returned it all the way for a touchdown. The failed conversion would put the score at 7-6, where it would remain for the rest of the half, as Milford would make a goal line stand at the end of the second quarter.
The second half saw a rejuvenated Buccaneers squad take the ball right down the field, making it 12-7 on a ten yard run by junior William Kimmel. The Milford defense would come out fired up, forcing Indian River to punt following a three and out. Milford would enjoy great field position as a high snap gave the Buccaneers the ball inside the Indians 20 yard line. Milford did nothing however, once again failing to take advantage of a golden opportunity.
“When you have chances like we did, you have to take advantage of them,” Strickland said. “We really paid a price for that tonight.” Indian River would finally get ahead with just under seven minutes remaining in the game as they scored from four yards out to take a 15-12 lead.
Starting from their own 10 yard line, Milford needed just three plays to reach the end zone as Bowman produced a 35 yard run and a 50 yard touchdown dash, that had given Milford the lead 18-15 with just four minutes remaining. Unfortunately, it was a lead the Buccaneers could not protect.
With a hungry Laurel team on the horizon this week, the 4-2 (1-1) Buccaneers are going to have to clean up the mistakes if they plan on making a run on the Henlopen South or even a State tournament birth for that matter. “We can learn from this, we can get better from this,” said Strickland. “We have to cut down on the mistakes and improve off of this game.”
Milford will travel to Laurel next Friday night for a 7:30 start.