By Kevin Eickman
When Shaun Strickland arrived to coach the Milford Buccaneers football team five seasons ago, he was inheriting a team that was coming off a 1-9 season. It was a team that many of their rivals looked forward to playing; many circling it on their calendars as an easy win. The first thing Strickland did was change the mindset of his players. Pat mistakes and the losing that accompanied them would no longer be tolerated.
“Teams were lining up to play us, they wanted Milford on their schedule. While we may have been a little out manned at first, whoever we played was going to know that they had been in a football game.”
With the Buccaneers move from the Henlopen South to the Henlopen North this year, teams are lining up again to play them. A quick glance at this season’s upcoming schedule shows that Milford will be playing three consecutive road homecoming games. When asked about it, Strickland smiled and shared the thought.
“It’s nothing we didn’t expect, when you’re the new kid on the block teams are going to see what you are made of. To us it’s just part of continuing the mindset of the program, we don’t run away from challenges we embrace them,” said Strickland.
Graduating 17 seniors after last season, Milford will come in on the young side of the spectrum in most respects. One of the players that most eyes will be fixed on will be sophomore quarterback Shawn Saxon who is coming off an up and down freshman year. While last year may not have been the easiest for Saxon, the strives he made will pay dividends in the future.
“Saxon got a better understanding of the offense as the season went on last year but the progress he has shown during the off-season has been very impressive,” Strickland commented. “He’s a very smart player with a strong arm and we see him getting better and better as we go forward.”
At the running back position senior Jabraih Luke and junior Marquis Gillis will carry the bulk of the load. “Both those guys have shown they have really great skills at the position and we are looking forward to see what they can do,” stated Strickland. “Marquis has worked very hard learning the position and has shown he is quite a capable back. We are pretty excited to see what he can do for us this season.”
Senior Anthony Diaz, a force up front, will anchor the defensive. While there are some younger players joining Diaz, Strickland believes they have what it takes. “These players have experience playing, now is the time to step up and seize their opportunity. There is no doubt it is going to be a challenge for them but we have a real belief in what they can do.”
The offensive front returns three starters from last season, four if you include Diaz who stepped up at the end of last season to play both ways. “We are excited for these guys, the line is not without continuity but does have a few new faces,” said Strickland. “That’s what high school football is about though, you lose and gain people every year, this season is no different.”
Some players stepping up to the varsity level to keep an eye out for are sophomore Kenny Reed, junior Joanel Munroe at receiver and corner spots. As well as juniors Bryce Wells and Matt Hague have been stepping up as well.
One position still not settled is kicker. With Jon Onega off to college, it opens an opportunity for someone to step up and attempt to fill some big shoes. “We haven’t settled on our kicker yet, we are evaluating them and like every other position the best one will win the job,” Stickland said.
Milford will open at Indian River September 6, before hosting Delaware Military Academy on September 13. Both games kick-off at 7 pm.
Sign up for you free digital subscription of The Weekly Review, delivered directly to your email every Tuesday morning. A quick cover-to-cover read to catch up on the news of the week and experience great stories about our local communities. Sign up for your free email subscription below.