By Kevin Eickman
In what was a less than perfect opener, the Milford Buccaneers showed the strength and resolve to overcome some mistakes to earn a season opening football victory at Indian River this past Thursday evening. While it was not always pretty, it was emphatic with junior Marquis Gillis putting in a performance for the ages.
Prior to the season, Milford Coach Shaun Strickland explained how hard Gillis has worked and how much commitment he has put in during the off-season. All of that hard work was on display as Gillis, along with a stout Milford defense put on a show.
The Bucs were gifted an early touchdown when Indian River turned over the ball at their own thirteen yard line following the opening kick-off. Milford wasted little time taking advantage of the opportunity as Gillis took it in from three yards out for his first of three touchdowns on the evening. Following a failed extra point, Milford held an early 6-0 advantage.
During the first half the Milford offense was inconsistent, but they managed to move the ball via the ground and the air. The problem for the Buccaneers offense came at crucial moments like fourth and one at the IR 20 yard line. The snap sailed over quarterback Shawn Saxon’s head and flipped the field in IR’s favor. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, mistakes that we won’t get away with against the better competition we are going to face going forward,” Strickland stated.
Despite the miscues, the Milford offense was still able to take yards in chunks, with Gillis leading the way. Gillis finished the game with 122 yard rushing and 28 yards receiving on the night. It was well into the second quarter, after Milford had squandered a goal line opportunity earlier in the period, before Milford was able to get back on the board. It was Gillis again who scored from two yards out for his second touchdown of the game. Gillis plowed through the middle on the two point conversion to give the Bucs a 14-0 advantage with 3:54 remaining in the quarter. It was the advantage that Milford took into the halftime locker room.
Starting in the third quarter the defense took over and offered some offensive contributions of their own. With 7:54 remaining Buccaneer sophomore Ivory Conway picked up an IR fumble and raced 18 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. With a failed 2 point attempt, Milford had to be content with a 20-0 advantage.
With the Buccaneer defense beginning to really find their rhythm, they forced a three and out on the very next series forcing IR to punt. With just three Buccaneers rushing the punter, senior Lamont Isabell blocked the punt which was then picked up by sophomore Joseph Mumford who raced in from 19 yards out for the touchdown. Following a successful two point conversion, the Bucs had extended their lead to 28-0 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.
With the issue all but settled, there was one more bit of excitement provided by Gillis, who also recorded an interception in the game. With 45 seconds remaining in the third, Gillis mishandled a punt at his own 27 yard line. Quickly gathering it in, Gillis began a tour of the Indian River field. Starting off on the left he headed right, almost reaching the far side of the field. In a run featuring several cutbacks, Gillis easily covered over 120 yards on what would be a 73 yard touchdown return. “I just kept on going, I could see nobody really was taking the right angles so I knew I would score,” Gillis stated.
The defense, which played stout throughout, really put their imprint on the game in the second half. Constantly attacking at the line of scrimmage and harassing the Indian River quarterbacks, they totally took charge. Speaking with senior Bevensky Augustin following the game, he indicated it was what he expected from the unit.
“We were going to get after them. Make no mistake about it, we were attacking the whole time,” Augustin commented. “When we play together on defense like we did tonight, it really makes it a lot of fun.”
The Bucs will host Delaware Military Academy this Friday, who handed Milford a 37-7 defeat last season. If Milford is going to avenge that loss, they must play much better than they did against Indian River. “We have a lot of work to do. You saw the mistakes tonight and we have got to clean them up,” said Strickland. “We have to practice and study hard to get things right.”
This Friday is also Hall of Fame night, with the game set to kick off at 7PM.
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.