By Kevin Eickman
The true test of any football team is how they react to adversity. Up until this past Friday night, the Milford Buccaneers football team had faced little of it. In the week heading into the game, junior running back DJ Bowman was lost to injury. To make matters worse, IR would take the opening kickoff right to the house, handing Milford their first deficit of the season, just 12 seconds into the game. What happened next on the Milford sideline was impressive. There was nothing but resolve, they knew they would get it back. Nobody hung there head, nobody asked why us. They just knew that it was another hurdle they would overcome, in a week full of them.
What followed over the next 47 minutes and change, was a good old fashioned Henlopen South, beat down; resulting in a 52-15 Buccaneer victory. It started with senior Christopher Sampson returning the ball across mid-field, allowing Milford to set up shop in IR territory. Milford wasted little time getting to work as the offense shredded the visitors relentlessly. The four play drive would be capped by a touchdown run from senior Dominyc Hovington, filling in for Bowman as the feature back of the evening. Following the two point conversion Milford had an 8-7 lead with 10:18 left in the first quarter. The Buccaneers would not trail again.
On the ensuing kickoff, Indian River would set up deep in Milford territory. It was there that the Milford defense would apply the clamps, stopping the visitors and taking over on their own 15 yard line. It was just the first of a series of stops that the Bucs defense would provide. Listening to coach Shaun Strickland, it is obvious that he has a lot of faith in this year’s defenders. “They’re a fast defense, those guys. If you ever watch us practice those guys come out every day,” Strickland stated. “Offense is always a great period but defense turns it up a notch. We end on defense for a reason, we know we’re going to lean on them all year.”
With 85 yards to navigate to the Indian River end zone, Milford made it look easy. With senior Kimmel riddling the visitors secondary and Hovington gashing their defense on the ground, Milford made it look easy. Hovington would score from 12 yards out to extend the Buccaneers lead to 16-7 following the two point conversion. Speaking with Hovington after the game, he made it clear that it was all about him doing his job “We had injuries to two players who were key players to both our offense and defense. So I was just going out there and trying to give it all for my team,” he stated.
Milford would pin Indian River deep on the kickoff and after forcing their second consecutive three and out, Buccaneers senior Kaje Reynolds would block the IR kick and senior Nicholas Carlino would return it two the IR door step. From there it was a quarterback sneak by Kimmel and yet another two point conversion, giving Milford a 24-7 lead as the first quarter came to a close. Milford would add two points to Indian Rivers total on an errant snap on a punt, but would be able to hold the visitors out of the endzone following the free kick. Milford would punt the ball away after a three and out, forcing IR to set up shop on their own end of the field following a great punt by Reynolds.
With time beginning to wind down in the half, IR would drive into Milford territory, primarily via the air. As they drove to the Milford 30 yard line, Milford went to a single deep safety look and it paid huge dividends. With the underneath defender deflecting the ball, Sampson was in the perfect spot to make the interception at his own 15 yard line. It was not over however as Sampson turned in a scintillating run, escaping several tackles and with some great blocking to return it the distance to give Milford a 30-9 halftime lead. “We made an adjustment on defense and had Sampson back there with great hands and he’s a kid we know that can go up there and get it,” Strickland stated.
The Buccaneers would start the second half, much as they had started the first on offense. Driving down the field, with Hovington providing his third touchdown of the game. Kimmel would also throw two touchdowns in the second half. The first would be a 40 yard pass down the left sideline to junior Marcus Correa, the second was a slant to senior Brion Murray, who would put on a dazzling run for the 70 yard touchdown.
This date had been circled on the calender for a while after Milford felt they let one get away last year down at Indian River 22-18. It was a loss that would eventually keep Milford out of the playoffs and one that they wanted to learn from. “A year ago today, we dropped one to them when we were in a grove,” Strickland stated. “For 365 days we wanted to answer that bell, so we did tonight. I’m very proud of our guys.”
The homecoming victory moved Milford to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Henlopen South. This Friday the Buccaneers will host Laurel, 3-3 (1-2) with kick set for 7:30.
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