By Kevin Eickman
In last week’s loss at Woodbridge it was obvious the Milford was missing something. While Milford had done well in the three week absence of David Bowman, his not being in the lineup was having a trickle down effect on the Buccaneers. While senior Dominyc Hovington filled in admirably during Bowman’s absence, not having Bowman available limited the Buccaneers on both sides of the ball. On offense when Bowman is in the game, defenses are forced to try and stop two running backs. On defense, Bowman’s ability to set the edge and fill to the ball were sorely missed. This past Friday night, the return of Bowman solved both those issues as Milford earned a hard fought 35-18 victory over visiting Delmar.
Starting with the Buccaneers first possession, it was obvious that things would be different for Milford. On the game’s second play, Bowman took the ball 20 yards down the right side of the field before being forced out of bounds by Delmar. Almost to a man the Milford sideline seemed to relax, realizing that their most talented offensive player was back. Milford would cap the 45 yard drive with a one yard run from Hovington and Bowman carrying in the two point conversion to give Milford an 8-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession however, Delmar made it obvious that they came to play. In a trend that would continue throughout the first half, Delmar was gashing the Buccaneers defense. Milford had a tough time stopping the run and the Wildcats capped the drive with a one yard touchdown run. The failed PAT kept Milford in the lead at 8-6.
The Buccaneers responded quickly as they kept on moving the ball against the Wildcat defense. Milford capped the 65 yard drive with a one yard touchdown run, this time from Bowman. The two point conversion attempt failed, leaving Milford with a 14-6 advantage.
Delmar returned the ensuing kick-off to the Milford 31 yard line, scoring just one play later as Delmar ran the ball right up the gut and finding pay dirt. Milford stopped the two point conversion, keeping the lead 14-12 with 10:03 remaining in the second quarter. It was becoming obvious however, that the Buccaneers defense was not playing up to par. “We just weren’t filling correctly up front in the first half, we needed to be better than that, we are better than that,” senior lineman and captain Greggory Clark said after the game.
Fortune appeared to shine on Milford as Delmar coughed up the ball on the Buccaneers forty yard line with 5:40 left in the half. The Bucs were able to drive deep into Delmar territory, before turning the ball over on downs at the Wildcat 22 yard line with 3:05 remaining in the first half.
Delmar proceeded to once again attack the Milford defense, mixing in both the run and pass while practicing solid clock management. Delmar capped the 78 yard drive with 21 yard touchdown pass to take their first lead of the 18-14, with just 35 seconds remaining in the first half.
Milford returned the ball to their own 35 yard line, where instead of running out the clock they had a little something up their sleeve. Milford handed the ball of to junior wide receiver Marcus Correa on an end around. Correa pulled up behind the line of scrimmage and let fly to fellow wide receiver senior Brion Murray who gathered it in and took it to the Delmar five yard line. With a pass interference penalty committed by Delmar on what would have been the last play of the half, Milford was given an untimed down from the two and a half yard line. Bowman would cover the distance on the ground and Milford took a 21-18 advantage into the locker room, courtesy of a PAT from sophomore Jonathan Gaglione. The kick was Milford’s first kicked PAT of the season, with Gaglione collecting two more on the night.
With both teams going three and out, Milford started scoring as Bowman electrified the crowd with a 57 yard touchdown run. It gave the Buccaneers a 28-18 advantage and concluded Bowman’s scoring for the evening, but not his impact. “It felt great to be back, sitting out and not being able to help my teammates for three weeks was killing me,” Bowman states. “Being a part of this team means a lot to me, I want to do everything I can to help us win.”
Delmar looked to be making a game of it however as they were able to drive the ball deep into Milford territory. With a different mindset on defense however, Milford produced back to back four down stops inside their own 10 yard line. The second stop coming right on the heals of the first as Milford fumbled the exchange and Delmar would pounce on the lose ball. “Our defense really stepped up,” coach Shaun Strickland stated. “What the coaches have done in making adjustments at the half have been phenomenal.”
The following Milford drive put the issue to rest as the Milford offensive line began to overpower the visitors. With a commitment to the running game, Hovington and Bowman ground down the Wildcats, using up eight minutes of fourth quarter clock along the way. When senior William Kimmel crossed the goal line for the games final touchdown, all eyes became squarely focused on next week’s game.
The 8-1 Milford Bucs will travel to Lake Forest next Friday for the annual edition of the Battle of the Bell. The Buccaneers have not won the game since 2010 and have grown a bit weary of watching the Spartans celebrate year after year. “They beat us pretty good here last season and we would nothing better than to return the favor this year,” Clark said. “We know they’re a good team, so we need to bring our best if we want to beat them.” Kick-off is at 7:30.
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