When this year’s football schedule first came out, there was a stretch of three road games against Henlopen North teams. All of them would be on the road and all of them would be the hosts homecoming games. After last week’s debacle against Caesar Rodney, the Bucs were hoping for a better showing as they traveled north to battle the Smyrna Eagles.
While the score may not indicate it, Milford played with much greater passion and control than they had in their 34-7 defeat at the hands of the Rider’s the previous week. The only problem was the strength and quality of their opponent. Smyrna sits atop the North with an unblemished 4-0 conference record.
“This is a team that won three of the last four D-I championships,” Coach Shaun Strickland said. “They are well disciplined, have an explosive offense and a quality defense. When you are going against them you are going against one of, is not the, best teams in Delaware.”
The Eagle’s speed and passing attack was no match for the Buccaneers and it was evident from the start. The first time Smyrna got the ball Eagle junior quarterback Aidan Sanchez connected on a 71 yard strike to fellow junior Devin Smith on just their third play from scrimmage. It would be the first of four passing touchdowns for Sanchez, who also added a rushing touchdown to his evening. Sanchez scorched the Bucs for 344 yards through the air.
“You can’t teach speed and they have plenty of it. They can through it and they have a solid rushing game as well,” commented Strickland. “When you go up against a team like is clicking like they were tonight, you need a few breaks to try and stay in the game. They never gave us anything.”
While it may not be easy to find a silver lining around this cloud, one thing that was evident on the Milford sideline was their willingness to keep trying. Unlike the previous week, where they put the ball on the ground six times, Milford did not fumble during the contest and moved the ball well at times. On offense sophomore quarterback Shawn Saxon looked good through the air as the Buccaneers opened up the passing attack in an attempt to keep pace with Smyrna. “Saxon did fairly well tonight as he made some really good reads and some nice throws,” Strickland stated. “We asked him to do a lot tonight and he competed with all his heart, I don’t know what more we could have asked of him.”
Even as the gap continued to widen, Milford kept on strapping on their helmets and tried to find the end zone. With junior Marquis Gillis out for the game, almost all the rushing duties fell to senior Jabraih Luke. He turned in a quality showing “Jabraih is a baller, he loves the game and is always looking forward to the next play,” said Strickland. “When everyone on the other team know your getting the ball it’s really tough. But he just kept on going tonight, he really left it all on the field.”
Another standout for Milford was junior Ricky Mercado-Diaz who was all over the field making several big tackles and demonstrated leadership the entire night. “Ricky has just grown and grown as a player over the season. He really showed what kind of person and football player he is tonight. He never gave up and played to the whistle on every play. I’m very proud of him,” commented Strickland.
Milford’s only real scoring chance came midway through the third quarter as Saxon drove deep into Eagle territory. Unfortunately Eagle defender Tommy Smith stepped in front of a potential touchdown pass and returned it 98 yards for the games final score.
Milford’s homecoming tour does not get any easier this week as they travel to Georgetown to battle defending State Champions Sussex Central. When asked about the task at hand, Strickland responded “We know what we are up against but if we continue to play with the heart we showed tonight, we will continue to get better. It’s not going to be easy, in fact nobody will give us a chance to win. That’s ok, we believe in ourselves and we will continue to improve.”
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.