By Kevin Eickman
This past Friday evening, the Milford Buccaneers football team traveled up to Woodside, to face off against the D-1 Polytech Panthers. With a young team and an upgraded schedule from last season, Milford knew it was going to be a challenge. In a game that could be considered a microcosm of this year’s version of Bucs football, Milford did many things right and some crucial things wrong on their way to falling to the Panthers. The result left Milford with a 1-2 record as they head into Henlopen South play, which begins this week.
In the first half Milford moved the ball sporadically at best, not being able to put more than one or two first downs together on any drive. Poly on the other hand had some solid looking drives. Their best opportunity to score came with just over three minutes remaining in the first half, but the Buccaneers defense stood tall and forced the Panthers into turning the ball over on downs.
“Our defense was very solid in the first half. Just like they have all season, they came up big,” coach Shaun Strickland stated.
After appearing a bit lethargic in the first half, the Milford offensive line came out fired up. Taking possession of the ball on their own 35 yard line the Bucs’ running game sprang to life, featuring a heavy dose of senior David Bowman. It took just 2:25 for Milford to travel the 65 yards, capped off by a 14 yard touchdown run by Bowman. When junior Jonathan Gaglione split the uprights with 9:35 left in the third quarter, it looked as if Milford was getting ready to roll.
“We were real happy with the drive to start the second half, especially the way we had come out real slow on offense to start the game,” Strickland said.
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Things looked even better for Milford, forcing Poly into a three and out, allowing Milford to take possession of the ball at their own 45 yard line. The Bucs were able to do nothing on offense however and were forced to punt. Following the kick, Poly set up on their own 15 yard line. After an initial first down, the Buccaneers defense stiffened, forcing the Panthers to line up for another punt. This is when momentum began to shift for Milford, and once it started going bad, it went from bad to worse for the rest of the game.
Polytech noted a flaw in the Milford punt return alignment and was quick to exploit it. Polytech sophomore Donald Rawley was left uncovered by Milford. When Polytech senior Tucker Reed took the snap, he threw the ball to his right and connected with a wide open Rawley. The play was crucial to the drive and Polytech took full advantage of it, driving straight down the field to tie the score with just 5.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“We just failed to account for the end on the punt, we had gone over it in film and thought we were ready for it,” Strickland said. “It’s a mistake we just shouldn’t have made, but we did. We ended up paying a big price for it.”
Things began to head south quickly for Milford, as on the ensuing kick-off the line drive kick struck one of the Buccaneer’s up men. The ball was easily corralled by the Panthers and the Milford defense was forced right back onto the field. Despite just having endured a 13 play drive, it appeared that the Milford defense once again held firm, as Polytech was forced to punt the ball right back to Milford. Once again however, the Buccaneers refused to accept their good fortune. On the punt, Milford was called for roughing the kicker, once again extending a Polytech drive. The Panthers marched right down the field and took a 13-7 lead with 8:01 left in the game.
The Milford offense did very little on their next possession and punted the ball back to Polytech once again. The Bucs forced another Polytech punt and once again disaster struck for the Bucs. A Milford player rushed the punter and just kept on heading into the punter long after the ball had been kicked. The play resulted in a 15 yard roughing the kicker penalty and an ejection for the Milford player for targeting.
“We have to be smarter than that, a play like that is not what we are about,” said Strickland. “Our players know better and it should never have happened.”
With the Milford defense finally feeling the effects of having been on the field for the majority of the evening, Polytech worked their way down the field and iced the contest with a 32 yard field goal with 1:16 remaining in the game.
Milford which now sits at 1-2, begins conference play this Friday as they host Seaford, which comes in sporting a 2-0 record. Kick-off is set for 7pm.
While the game was all but over, any thought of a Milford comeback was all but extinguished on the ensuing kick-off. The kick from Polytech looked to be heading out of bounds and Milford junior Tyron Mifflin was following it as it headed towards the sideline. At the last moment, the ball stayed in bounds and Mifflin, dived for it. Diving for it as well, was a Polytech player who hit Mifflin in the neck. While Mifflin lay on the ground with very little movement, the decision was made to transport him to the hospital for precautionary reasons. Mifflin was tested and released and expected to be fine.
“It’s not easy when one of your kids end up in the hospital, but it looks as if he is going to be ok,” Strickland stated.
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