By Kevin Eickman
It was all over now, their final hopes extinquished as Delmar collected their third interception of the evening to seal their seventh DIAA D-II state football title. As the clock hit zero and the reality of failing to reach their goal began to sink in, the look of disappointment was evident on the faces of the Buccaneers. While losing a championship game is nothing to celebrate, the heart that the Buccaneers showed in defeat is something that should be.
After Milford had been so easily dispatched down in Delmar 35-10 just a month ago, few gave Milford a chance, except Milford. When Delmar gashed Milford on the games first possession to take the lead, many in attendance had to think “Here we go again.” Not Milford, they just kept coming. They kept on trying to find a way. When all it would take to end the game would be a Delmar first down, Milford refused to yield it. When the clock was winding down and Milford was desperate for a miracle, the Buccaneers kept searching for one.
Perhaps the most striking image of all was watching the embrace between Milford coach Shaun Strickland and senior David Bowman. In his three years as Milford head coach, Bowman has easily been Strickland’s most valuable player. The cornerstone of a 1-9 program Strickland took over, which had made losing a habit. Together they have rose from the ashes and fallen just short of the goal of a State Title. It was a long way from the conversation that Bowman and Strickland had prior to Bowman’s sophomore season.
“When we first sat down and talked, his goal was just to win the bell one time before he left,” Strickland said. “He’s got so much time left and such a long career ahead of him, wherever he lands. So he’s just has to move forward.”
There were many other Buccaneers on the field who were upset, all had demonstrated their heart and left everything on the field as well. Only two teams get to play the final game of the season and Milford was one of them. In more than half their games this season, Milford was easily outweighed up front, but somehow always seemed to find an inner strength to win, to get the job done when it seemed they were defeated.
While it will be easy to remember the look of disappointment on the face of the Buccaneers on the turf up at The University of Delaware, the more memorable image will have come on a night back in October. Having been bludgeoned and battered by a physically overwhelming Cape Henlopen team, it all came down to one play for the Buccaneers in overtime. Trailing 27-21 on fourth and goal, Milford would either score or lose, if they lost their playoff hopes would be dashed. Milford put the ball in the hands of Bowman and the defensive push by Cape looked as if it had crushed the Bucs. The offensive line had other ideas and pushed back, Bowman’s legs kept on churning and somehow Milford found the end zone. They scored when it seemed as if they had little chance to do so, when it took more than strength to get the ball across the goal line, it took heart. The same heart that made Milford winners this year.