By Kevin Eickman
When the schedule came out for the 2017 football season, there was one date that was circled on Buccaneer senior David Bowman’s calendar. Speaking to Bowman prior to the game, he shared that this was one game he was really looking forward to.
“Last year I was injured and couldn’t play, the year before that I was hurt in the first half and basically playing on one leg,” Bowman said. “You always want to measure yourself against the best, so going up against the State Champs is something you are always looking forward to.”
With the homecoming stage set, Bowman and the Buccaneers did not disappoint. Starting from the games opening series, it was clear that Milford had come to play. With Woodbridge winning the toss and electing to receive, the Blue Raiders were greeted by a Buccaneer defense that started the season strong and has continued to improve. Woodbridge went nowhere on three plays and were forced to punt into a somewhat unkind breeze under wet conditions. The result would be Milford setting up shop at the Woodbridge 40 yard line on their first offensive possession.
Milford wasted little time in imposing their will on Woodbridge, as they quickly drove the ball down the field. With each play it became evident that the Milford offensive line came to play as well. Rapidly moving the ball down the field, Bowman capped off the drive with a one yard plunge for the games first touchdown. The successful extra point by junior Jonathan Gaglione gave Milford the 7-0 advantage with 8:33 left in the first quarter.
Milford dominated field position throughout most of the first quarter. While the defense was stout, the offense looked a bit uneven at times. The lack of movement on offense may have given the Milford faithful cause for concern, but a careful look at the alignment indicated the Buccaneers were splitting Bowman out wide to start the game.
“Our offense at first, started using me as a decoy. But once he ran me, I told him I was going to be a workhorse tonight,” Bowman said. “He saw what I was doing and he kept running me.”
Once the focus of the offensive game plan shifted to Bowman, the offense started gaining yardage in chunks. As the first quarter came to a close, the Buccaneers drove deep into Woodbridge territory. The drive stalled however and Milford was forced into a third and long situation. Woodbridge came up with an interception at their own five yard line and were able to start at their own 20, compliments of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Milford.
The Blue Raiders took advantage of the turnover, as their offense went for it on fourth and one from their own 29 yard line and converted for the first down. After that Woodbridge was off to the races and the Buccaneers were playing back on their heals for the first time of the evening. With each play, it was looking like Woodbridge might have solved the riddle of the Bucs defense. Driving deep into Milford territory, the moment of truth came on fourth and a foot to go for a touchdown. On the play, the Buccaneers defense stood tall and held their ground. When it was clear that Milford had stopped Woodbridge, Briggs stadium rose to their feet with 3:10 left in the first half. Riding Bowman again, Milford was able to work their way out of the shadows of their own end zone and take a 7-0 lead to the locker room.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage all night, defense controlled the line of scrimmage,” Coach Strickland stated.
While the scoreboard remained unchanged as the third quarter progressed, Milford clearly began to move the ball with greater ease from one possession to the next. With the Buccaneers gradually amping up the pressure, it was just a matter of time before the dam burst. That moment would come as Bowman exploded through the middle of the Woodbridge defense and did not stop until he scored his second touchdown of the day. The extra point gave Milford a 14-0 advantage, with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
That joy would be short lived however, as Woodbridge returned the ensuing kick off 80 yards for a touchdown. While the PAT was no good, the Blue Raiders closed the gap to 14-6 as a feeling of angst began to creep in a bit.
There would be little reason to worry however as the Buccaneers offense continued to move the ball with ease. With Woodbridge attempting to key on Bowman, it began to open up holes for other Milford runners as well, with junior Rahshawn Price and senior Jordan Waters getting key touches. This night however was always going to be about Bowman. With 1:11 remaining in the third quarter, Bowman closed out the game scoring with a run from 23 yards out. The touchdown was Bowman’s 23rd as a Buccaneer and tied him with Brandon LeGrand for the school’s touchdown record
“It feels good to tie it, and know that if I break it I could be the No. 1 running back coming out of Milford,” Bowman said. “But, it’s not my No. 1 interest, because we’ve got four games left and we’re trying to get to the playoffs. That’s my goal.”
Woodbridge never seriously challenged Milford again as the defense continued to be stout and the offense conducted a massive time consuming drive to settle the issue. By the time Woodbridge took over at their own 10 yard line, there was just 2:23 remaining in the game. Woodbridge could do nothing as Milford forced a fumble with 1:36 left. There was nothing left for Milford to do at that point but take a few knees to secure the victory.
The Milford Homecoming win, snapped an 18 game Woodbridge winning streak. It was also the first time the Buccaneers have defeated Woodbridge since 2008. The win improved Milford’s record to 4-2 (3-0) in the Henlopen South. They will be hosting D-I Cape Henlopen this Friday, kick off is scheduled at 7pm.
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