By Kevin Eickman
Almost one month to the day of when Milford Buccaneer football traveled to Delmar and were destroyed 35-10 by the Wildcats, they were offered a chance at redemption. Earning a rematch in the DIAA D-II State championship game, Milford had to do things a bit differently if they hoped to avenge the previous loss.
Early in the game, it looked as if a repeat performance might be in the offing as Delmar took over on offense for the games first possession. Running the ball right up the middle on the game’s first play, the Wildcats gashed Milford straight up the middle for a first down. The Buccaneers appeared to have adjusted however, stuffing the next two Delmar runs to set up a third and long situation from the Wildcat 42 yard line. Disaster would strike on a toss right play as Milford did not fill the hole and Delmar was off to the races. Just like that Milford was facing a 7-0 deficit with just over two minutes gone in the game.
On the ensuing Milford drive, things went from bad to worse as Milford turned the ball right back over to the Wildcats on an ill-fated flee flicker. On the play Milford senior DJ Bowman dove into the line and then tossed it back to junior quarterback Tayone’ Matthews who threw the ball deep down the field. The only issue was that the ball was more high than deep, allowing Delmar to track it down for an easy interception.
While they may have been wobbly, the Buccaneers were not out. While Delmar would move the ball to the Bucs 29 yard line, they would go for it on a fourth and goal situation in an attempt to settle the issue quickly. The Milford defensive front was stout and held, allowing Milford to regain their poise and confidence. It would be the first of consecutive fourth down stops by the Milford defense.
With Delmar keying on Bowman, it would be crucial for Milford to find other ways to move the ball offensively. On their third series of the game the Buccaneers took to the air for the answer as Matthews connected on a 47 yard completion to senior Tyreke Benson, who made a marvelous catch and run on the play. Milford eventually evened the score on the first play of the second quarter as Matthews took it in from one yard out.
It appeared that the defenses would rule the remainder of the second quarter as both defenses had difficulty moving the ball. The lone exception was the final drive of the quarter, when Delmar was able to move the ball consistently for their first and only time of the night. They took over on their own 23 yard line with 2:37 remaining in the first half. The Wildcats put on a clock management clinic, first getting out of the shadow of their own endzone, then working their way deep into Buccaneer territory as time was winding down. While it was not know at the time, the most important play of the game came on the final play of the first half with just seven seconds remaining on the clock. From the Milford 12 yard line, Delmar found the endzone as senior Carson Phillips was left uncovered and walked in for the touchdown as the clock struck zero.
“They made they made two big plays and they were on two mistakes,” coach Shaun Strickland stated. “This is not a team, and I’ve said it all year that you can come out and make mistakes against.” Delmar would take a 14-7 lead into halftime and never relinquish it.
While Milford did not find the endzone in the second half, it was not for lack of trying. Time and again, Milford found their way into Wildcat country, but could never punch it in. In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Bucs had their deepest drive in the second half, driving down to the Delmar 17, before three consecutive penalties forced them into a fourth and long endzone interception.
The Buccaneers gave themselves one final chance as they were able to stop Delmar on a fourth and short from the Milford 37 yard line with 2:22 remaining in the game. With the clock ticking away, Milford drove to the Wildcat 25 yard line, before penalties once again reared their ugly head. All of the Buccaneers hopes were dashed as a fourth down interception by Delmar settled the issue once and for all.