By Kevin Eickman
It all came down to this, one moment, one play. This past Friday night a Briggs stadium, the Milford Buccaneers and Cape Henlopen Vikings put on a show. In a game that saw emotions sway back and forth all evening long, it came down to one huge moment. In overtime at fourth and goal from the two yard line. While Milford gave up a touchdown to Cape on their opening overtime possession, Cape missed the extra point and the Bucs trailed 27-21. Whose shoulder better to put the weight of the game on, than Bucs senior David Bowman.
“It was a real easy decision to make, we had a chance to win the game right there and we we’re going to put it in our best players hands and trust our offensive line,” coach Shaun Strickland stated. “We had success running that play to the left side all night, so we thought it would be there on the right side as well. It was all up to how badly we wanted it.”
Milford ran Bowman to the right side of the line, with what looked like the entire student body providing the blocking. As the play began one thing was certain, Cape Henlopen was not fooled. Initially it looked as if Cape stymied the run, gaining the initial leverage and pushing the Milford blockers slightly back. In a test of wills however, Bowman and the Buccaneers prevailed in the end. The offensive line gained traction and Bowman’s legs kept churning. It became clear that the tide was beginning to shift in the favor of Milford. With one final lunge, Bowman reached the ball over the plain of the goal line. Briggs stadium exploded in euphoria as the linesman raised his arms indicating touchdown.
“That was all about heart right there,” Bowman said. “My blockers never give up on me and I never give up on them, that’s how much we mean to each other.”
The touchdown tied the game at 27 as junior Jonathan Gaglione trotted out to kick the extra point that would give Milford their second win of the season over a D-I opponent. The stadium grew hushed prior to Gaglione splitting the uprights, before the crowd once again roared their approval. On the field the Milford players erupted in joy, celebrating their hard fought victory. In a night that saw them challenged on multiple levels, the Buccaneers proved to themselves that they can get the job done even when things are not going their way.
“We weren’t at our best through the whole game tonight. But our guys buckled down and got the job done when they needed to,” said Strickland. “This team has a lot of heart and they showed it tonight, against a D-1 team that came ready to play.”
Milford started the game slowly, with the offense not finding much running room as the game got underway. On their first possession, it looked as if Cape wanted to give the game away early as they put the ball on the ground twice during their opening possession. Milford however, was unable to come up with either fumble. Both teams continued to exchange punts as Milford did not get their initial first down until only 1:116 remained in the opening stanza.
Cape managed to flip the field position, setting up shop at the Milford 40 yard line with just over nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Vikings worked the ball quickly down the field and scoring on a one yard running play with 6:01 remaining in the half. The extra point would make the score 7-0.
The Bucs sprang to life on the ensuing drive as the Buccaneers began to move the ball, with Bowman spearheading the way. Milford was able to move the ball deep into Cape territory, before the drive appeared to stall at the Viking 20 yard line. Eschewing the field goal attempt, Milford decided to go for it on fourth and eight. Milford junior quarterback Tayone’ Matthews threw a strike down the seam to sophomore Gaji Copes who eagerly gathered in the offering for the Buccaneers first score.
Milford drove the ensuing kick off into the front line and were able to recover the ball to remain on offense. Milford moved patiently but efficiently as they began to display confidence that they could move the ball on Cape. This drive was capped as Matthews threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time connecting with senior Parker Chandler who made a marvelous positional catch on a fade route.
“It was all about giving my guys a chance to make a play, I knew all I had to do was put it where it needed to be and they would take care of the rest,” Matthews stated. With Gaglione adding the PAT, Milford took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
The Buccaneers threatened to break the game over to start the second half as they traveled 45 yards on two plays. Bowman carried the ball just two times, on run of 40 yards, followed by a five yarder for the touchdown, The touchdown was the 55th of Bowman’s Milford career, surpassing Brandon Legrand for the Milford all-time touchdown record.
“It was really great to break the record, but the win tonight was what it was all about,” Bowman stated. “I still have a few games left, so hopefully I can add to the total.”
Coaching on the opposite sideline was former Milford coach Mike Tkach, who had the opportunity to coach both Bowman and Legrand while at Milford. “I was real lucky to be able to coach those guys, when Brandon set the record I thought it would stand for a long time. Bowman is a very special player though and I can’t help but be happy for him for getting a record like that. Even though we lost,” Tkach stated. “With David it’s not just about him running the ball, it’s about him on defense as well. He is also a great human being, with a lot of character, he is just a great kid.”
Milford appeared to have put the final nail in the Cape coffin as they once again recovered the ensuing kick off. An inadvertent whistle however, would deny Milford the opportunity to rapidly settle the issue. This gave new life to the Cape offense and they began to find their footing, running the ball on the Buccaneers and driving deep into Milford territory. A short touchdown run by Cape senior Kolbi Wright, who would score three times in the game, closed the gap to 21-14 with just over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Wright also closed out the regulation scoring as he scored from 5 yards out to level the score with 10:46 left, with the PAT tying the score.
Milford’s defense stiffened and both offenses had a difficult time moving the ball for the remainder of the game. The lone exception was a drive by the Buccaneers late in the game, where they drove to the Cape 20 yard line. The Bucs fumbled the ball away however, before getting a chance to attempt a game winning field goal.
The win improves the Buccaneers record to 5-2 (3-0) as they travel down to Indian River this Friday, for a Henlopen South tilt.
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