By Kevin Eickman
The clock was finally working its way to zero and the inevitability of the Milford Buccaneers defeat was becoming apparent. For 48 minutes the Bucs got off the deck again and again against a Delmar Wildcat team that was maintaining their perfect record at 9-0. The loss was heartbreaking and has all but ended the Buccaneers playoff aspirations. However, there was not one Milford player who could not hold their head up high on Senior Night.
“All you can ever ask from your players is they give it their best, try their hardest. Tonight, against a team that nobody gave us a chance against we refused to quit,” Milford coach Shaun Strickland stated. “This is the type of effort we strive for every game, I’m so proud of the way the guys battled all night.”
Early in the contest it looked as if the Milford faithful might be in for a long evening as Delmar took the opening kick off and drove down the length of the field. However, Milford stiffened at the goal line turning back the Wildcats at the one yard line with 8:31 remaining in the first quarter.
After being held to a three and out Milford had a poor punt allowing Delmar to set up at the Buccaneers 20 yard line. Delmar turned the ball over however and it looked like Milford might be able to work their way out of their own side of the field following the fumble recovery. Unfortunately the Bucs turned the ball right back over as they stripped the Milford running back on the very next play and Delmar took over on the Buccaneer 27 yard line. The Milford defense once again proved equal to the task as they pushed Delmar backwards and took over at their own 32 yard line.
The Buccaneers finally got the offense in gear, working their way down to the Delmar 32 yard line before turning the ball over on downs with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter. With the clock indicating a 0-0 score as the second stanza got underway, there was little indication of the offensive explosion that was about to occur. Delmar senior George Angello started the scoring as he took it in on a one yard keeper for the games first score as the Wildcats took the lead 7-0 with 9:11 remaining in the second quarter.
Milford did little on their next drive and Delmar once again began driving the ball down the field. After a huge completion to the Milford 21 yard line, it looked as if the Wildcats were poised to double their lead. Buccaneers sophomore Marquis Gillis came up with a big interception at the Bucs 2 yard line to keep the Wildcats from doubling their lead with 4:17 remaining in the second quarter.
The Buccaneer offense finally began to click as the running game kicked it up a notch. With each passing play the confidence was growing. While early in the game Milford struggled for yardage, they now started gaining it in chunks. It took a little over two minutes for the Buccaneers to level the score as senior Rahshawn Price took it in from 31 yards out as Milford evened the score at 7-7 with 2:12 left in the first half.
On Delmar’s very next play from scrimmage senior Te’Shawn Dennard ripped off a 66 yard touchdown and just like that the Wildcats were back in front 14-7 with 1:53 remaining in the second quarter.
The first indication of the Buccaneers resiliency would be demonstrated as Price recorded his second touchdown of the game as he ripped off a 62 yard touchdown run of his own with 1:32 remaining in the second. As Milford evened the score at 14 as the teams went into the locker room “Getting that touchdown right before the half was big, it was a real confidence builder for us,” Strickland said. “As the game went on the offense really began to find their feet.”
As a pelting rain fell on Briggs stadium to start the third quarter, neither team was able to do much with their first possessions. Milford would once again found their backs to their own goal line as they took over on their own six yard line. Milford went in a very wrong direction and Price was tackled in his own endzone, giving Delmar a 16-14 advantage and the ball on their own 42 yard line with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter. Delmar wasted little time covering the 58 yards in under a minute as Dennard would take it in from 12 yards out, extending Delmar’s lead to 23-14 with 2:00 minutes remaining in the third.
The Buccaneers wasted little time responding as freshman quarterback Shawn Saxon connected on a 56 yard strike to junior Gaij Copes with 53 seconds still remaining in the third quarter. The Gaglione PAT closed the gap to two points again as the score narrowed to 23-21.
With the offenses now taking control of the game, Delmar wasted little time extending the lead back to nine as running back Dante Trader romped fifty yards down the right side with 36 seconds remaining in the third as Delmar once again restored their nine point advantage 30-21.
After Milford could do little on their next possession it looked as if Delmar had finally sealed the Bucs fate as they extended their lead to 37-21 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
On this night however, Milford would not go down easy. Starting at their own 40 yard line, the Bucs wasted little time working their way into Wildcat country. The drive was aided by three very uncharacteristic Delmar penalties. Following a one yard keeper touchdown by Saxon, Milford went for a two point conversion. On the play Saxon would roll right extending the play before finding and connecting with a Gillis in the endzone. Milford was once now within eight, 37-29 with 7:06 remaining.
Disaster struck on the ensuing kickoff on what looked like was going to be a great break for the Buccaneers. Gaglione drove the ball well over the heads of the Delmar deep backs and it looked for sure as it would head into the endzone for a touch-back. Unfortunately for Milford it came up just one yard short and that one yard would be critical. Dennard ran over from the other side of the field and split the Milford coverage team and there was nothing but space in front of him as he would travel 99 yards untouched for a backbreaking touchdown and a 44-29 advantage with just under seven minutes to play.
Milford responded one final time, driving the ball sixty yards in just over three minutes to close the score to 44-36, providing one last glimmer of hope. Unfortunately for the Bucs they were unable to stop the Wildcat’s as the held the ball for the games final 3:12 to earn the hard fought victory.
The defeat dropped Milford’s record to 5-4 (3-2) and has placed their tournament hopes on life support. While it is unlikely Milford will qualify for the State Tournament, it does not mean they do not have a huge game on the horizon. Next Friday Milford will travel to Lake Forest to take on a Spartan squad that will like nothing better than to take back “The Bell” on senior night. Lake enters the game with an identical 5-4 record and would love to avenge their last two defeats at the hands of the Buccaneers.
“They have had a solid year over there and we know they are gunning for us. This is a rivalry game and for both teams this can make their season,” Strickland commented. “They want to beat us, we want to beat them. For my seniors who I have coached for the past four years, losing this game would be crushing. We need to come out and be ready to play because we know Lake will be.” Kick off is set for 7pm.
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