By Kevin Eickman
The Milford Buccaneers earned their third consecutive victory of the season as they came out victorious thanks to a solid effort in all three phases of the game. While the 33-6 score might look a little lopsided, make no mistake about it this was a battle of attrition that Milford was able to win. While it wasn’t the prettiest of wins this year, it was without a doubt the grittiest.
Early in the game it looked as if Milford might take the lead and never look back. After the Bucs held on their initial defensive series they drove deep into Laurel territory. Misfortune struck as Milford fumbled the ball away on the laurel 20-yard line with 8:56 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing series the visiting Bulldogs demonstrated the ability to move the ball mostly on the ground as they employed a jumbo package in an attempt to wear the Bucs down. Play after play Laurel was able to gain positive yardage and move the chains. The Buccaneer defense finally stiffened and forced a turnover on downs to halt the Bulldogs at the Milford 15 yard line.
“We knew that we had to respond, when they come at you like that everyone has to dig deep and show what they are made of,” senior lineman Ritchy Corvil stated.
Milford appeared to find their footing on the next series, as they were able to work the ball into Laurel territory, keyed by a pair of big runs from senior Rahshawn Price. The drive stalled however and the Buccaneers turned back at the Bulldog 30 yard line as their defense stuffed a Milford running attempt on 4th and 1.
With the teams tied at zero as the second quarter got underway, fortune shined on the Buccaneers as a fumble was picked up at the Laurel 25 yard line by Milford defensive lineman Anthony Diaz. Although he did not make it to the endzone, his return allowed Milford to set up shop at the Bulldog 12 yard line. The Buccaneers had a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty and ended up going backwards on the drive. While the drive went the wrong way, Milford finally put some points on the board as senior Jonathan Gaglione split the uprights from 32 yards out to give Milford the games first lead at 3-0 with 9:33 remaining in the second quarter.
Milford kept the pressure on the visitors as the defense forced a punt on the Bulldogs next possession. The ball took a high hop as it bounced on the Milford 36 yard line and Milford senior returner Tyron Mifflin had a decision to make. He could get away from the dangerous looking punt or he could grab it to ensure the Buccaneers solid field position. Mifflin opted for the latter and it couldn’t have been a better decision as he took the ball first cut left and then back to the right. After going past the initial wave of defenders Mifflin began picking up blocks and for the second game in a row he took it to the house for a Milford touchdown.
“I saw the ball bounce up but I could see I had a enough time to get to it,” Mifflin commented “I saw a crease and once I got through it I saw the blocking setting up and I was sure that I was going to go all the way.” Following the Gaglione extra point Milford had a 10-0 lead with 7:10 remaining in the second quarter.
The bulldogs showed their teeth on the ensuing drive as they methodically worked the ball down the field, starting at the Milford 25. With each play it looked as if Laurel was finding the answer to the Milford defensive riddle. Every time it looked as if the Buccaneers defense found a way to get off the field, Laurel found a way to stay on it. Even with Milford rotating personnel in and out, the Bucs appeared to wear down as the clock on the first half kept ticking away. The Bulldogs finally found the endzone on a touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Dalton Perdue with just 45 seconds remaining in the half. A failed extra point attempt sent the teams in the locker rooms with Milford leading 10-6.
While the first half saw Milford miscues prevent them from gaining a larger advantage, the second half saw the Buccaneers ready to play the kind of football they were capable of. On their first drive of the half, Milford sprang to life as the Buccaneers began to work more to the outside and ran a solid counter to sophomore Marquis Gillis which picked up twenty yards. While the drive stalled inside Laurel territory, a Gaglione 34 yard field goal extended the Milford lead to 13-6 with 9:36 remaining in the third.
The Milford defense continued to battle against the Laurel jumbo package however, with Laurel continuing to have success via the ground, mixing in the pass occasionally. With 3:20 remaining in the third quarter, Milford senior defensive back Kadin Bates intercepted a Perdue offering and returned it the Buccaneers 36 yard line.
The Buccaneers wasted little time as the 64 yard drive capped off by a one yard touchdown run from junior Jabraih Luke with 11:55 remaining in the 4th quarter. A blocked PAT held the Milford advantage at 19-6. The lion’s share of yards on the drive however came courtesy of Price who rushed for over 100 yards on the evening. Although he didn’t find the endzone on the evening, Price was thrilled with how the running game took control of the game.
“We have so many guys that can do so many things out of the backfield, I’m just one part of that,” Price said. “We are lucky enough to have so many capable running backs, we just have so many people we can handle the ball it really presents a challenge to the other team.”
Milford forced a Laurel three and out on their next defensive series, allowing the offense to set up shop at their own 30 yard line. Following another big Price run, senior Caleb Watson ripped off a 37 yard touchdown run right up the gut of a now tired Bulldog defense with Milford extending the advantage to 26-6. The icing on the cake was provided by Mifflin who returned a Laurel punt 67 yards for his second touchdown of the game with the Gaglione PAT providing the final margin of 33-6.
The win improved the Buccaneers record to 3-2 (2-0) on the season. It only gets harder for Milford next week however, as they will travel down to Woodbridge to battle a Blue Raider squad sporting an identical 3-2 record and looking for revenge from last season. The Buccaneers had two wins against Woodbridge last season including a 24-23 playoff thriller at Briggs stadium. The last time Milford traveled to Woodbridge back in 2017 Milford got trounced 39-8.
“We know that when we go down there they are going to bring their best, just like they always do,” coach Shaun Strickland stated. “They are solid on both sides of the ball and if we don’t come ready to play they will be all over us. They have a great team and very supportive fans it’s going to be a challenge.”
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