By Kevin Eickman
The Milford Buccaneers football team knew that if they were to have any chance of making the State tournament, they were going to have to take care of business at Delmar this past Friday. Heading down to Wildcat Country on a Friday night is no easy task. Then taking into account the hard luck that Delmar has endured this season, you knew that Delmar would like nothing better than to crush the dreams of the visiting Buccaneers.
From the start, Milford looked outmatched and overwhelmed. Beginning with the very first series of the game, it was obvious the Buccaneers offense was out of sync. After Delmar had stuffed a pair of Milford running attempts, they tipped the Buccaneers first pass attempt of the game and it fell right into the hands of a waiting Wildcat defensive lineman. With less than two minutes gone in the game, the Milford defense had their backs to the wall as Delmar set up shot on the Buc 31 yard line.
It took just two plays for Delmar to score the games first touchdown and hand Milford a 6-0 deficit after the Buccaneers managed to block the extra point. While looking inconsequential at the time, it would be a point that Delmar would regret having missed.
Following the Delmar score, Milford looked efficient on their second drive of the game, working their way down to the Wildcat 35 yard line. The drive would stall however and Milford would be forced to turn the ball over on downs. What followed for Milford was a lesson on how not to play defense.
Play after play, Delmar had their way with the Buccaneers. The Milford defensive front looked as if they might never be able to stop the Wildcats. Delmar was moving the ball in such a dominating fashion, that the Buccaneers called a time out to try and right the ship, as the Wildcats had once again moved deep into Milford territory. All the delay did was give Delmar the opportunity to pick the perfect play to extend their lead to 13-0, as on the very next play senior DeJour Brown would travel 23 yards to pay dirt.
As the rest of the first half played out, it was becoming obvious that the Buccaneers offense was being badly outplayed. While Milford could move the ball on occasion, there was nothing they could do consistently that fostered any optimism that they could get back in the game. The one bright spot was that the Milford defense was beginning to find themselves, no longer helpless against the Wildcat offense, keeping the gap at 13-0 as the teams entered the half.
Delmar would get the ball to start the second half and it looked as if they wanted to settle the matter for good, as they worked their way deep into Milford territory. It was at this point the Buccaneers defense stood tall, stopping the drive at their own 30 yard line and keeping the game within reach. “Getting the stop to start the second half was big, we did not want them to go up by three scores because we knew it would be trouble,” coach Shaun Strickland stated.
The Milford offense then came to life, not just a little, but in a way that indicated things were going to be very different in the second half. Sophomore Marcus Correa would work almost exclusively as the Buccaneers quarterback in the second half, as the Milford coaching staff knew they would need a vertical passing game if they were to have any chance in the game. “They were crowding us up front all night, we needed the ability to have some big pass plays if we wanted to win,” Strickland stated. With a key completion to senior wide receiver Marquis Demby and a big run of his own, Correa worked his way deep into Delmar territory in the blink of an eye. Sophomore David Bowman would finish off the drive, with a 4 yard run. Breathing life into the Buccaneers for the first time of the evening. Milford failed on the two point conversion and would have to settle for cutting the deficit to 13-6 with 4:45 left in the 3rd quarter.
Delmar would score one final touchdown to extend the lead to 19-6. The feeling on the Milford sideline was pretty simple, they knew it did not matter. “We felt we really had the answer on offense, we knew that we were gong to be able to score every time we touched the ball,” Correa said. “We also knew that our defense was going to step up, we just knew it.” How right Correa was.
Following that touchdown, the now high octane Buccaneer offense wasted little time getting it right back. Quickly driving into Delmar territory, Correa hit a wide open Brion Murray in the end zone for the touchdown with one minute left in the third quarter. It was a huge play, showing the Delmar defense that they could not press up without paying a price. Speaking with Murray following the game, he felt the touchdown was just what the team needed. “I just had to catch the ball and I knew my teammates would get it done,” Murray said. “I knew the defense would stop them, and I knew that we would score again.” With the score now at 19-12, Milford now had life.
As Murray had predicted, the defense was now on fire. There was little they could do on the next series as they held Delmar on the following series, setting up shop on their own 37 with just over 10 minutes remaining. With the Delmar defense now forced to play honest, they were fed a healthy dose of the Buccaneer running game. As each play passed, it was becoming very obvious that there was going to be no stopping Milford now. Key on the drive was David Bowman, who had a relatively quiet night to this point. When it mattered most however, he was huge for the Buccaneers. “I wasn’t at my best tonight, but I knew my teammates needed me, so I left it all out there on the field,” Bowman stated. Bowman would deliver the Buccaneers to the Delmar doorstep, from there Rahshawn Price would muscle it in with seven minutes left to put the Buccaneers within one.
Milford would go for the two point conversion and the lead, handing the ball to the ever reliable Bowman. At first it had appeared that Bowman had been stopped, but a face mask penalty by the Wildcats gave the Buccaneers another chance. This time it was a quarterback sneak, with the ball in the hands of junior William Kimmel. Scoring the two points and giving Milford the lead for the first time all game. Speaking about Kimmel after the game, coach Strickland had nothing but praise for him “Kimmel is a hell of a football player and we wouldn’t be where we are without him,” said Strickland.
Where they are, is one win away from a State tournament spot. It will not be easy as they will host Henlopen South champions, Lake Forest in the annual “Battle of The Bell”. A victory over Lake and Milford will be in the playoffs, which also will not be easy. “That is one hell of a football team over there, back to back Henlopen South titles is not easy,” Strickland stated. “We just have to get ready, have a solid week of practice and bring our A game, anything less and we won’t have a chance.”