By Kevin Eickman
Like all fall sports in Delaware, Milford football is learning to adapt. Following last year’s return to Division I, Milford has a schedule sprinkled with foes from the past, as well as a new team that shares their nickname. While the schedule might look like fairly easy, with four D-II teams on it, make no mistake about it, it is going to be a challenging year for the Buccaneers.
Three of the four D-II games are against perennial playoff powers – Caravel, Woodbridge and Delmar. When you toss in the rivalry game against Lake Forest (The Battle of the Bell), you can see that there are no gimmes on Milford’s schedule. “We wanted to challenge ourselves, there were some other games we could have played, but we respect the rivalries we had from back in the Henlopen South, as well as a team like Caravel (the Buccaneers), who has always been a solid team,” MHS head coach Shaun Strickland said.
This year’s team will be lacking a little experience in some areas while looking for some breakthroughs in others. Some of the seniors taking the field will be doing so for the first time as starters. “Our guys that have been in backup rolls have been behind some very good people, so we are confident that they can get the job done,” said Strickland.
All eyes will be on junior quarterback Shawn Saxon. The junior, entering his third year as a starter, can make all the throws and has grown into the leadership role the position demands. “Shawn has really worked hard this offseason and it is showing. His decision-making is much better as well as quicker and we believe he will take a big step forward this season.”
If it’s electricity you seek, look no further than senior Marquis Gillis who expected to tote the rock a great deal of the time for Milford. “Marquis is a very special player and it has been great to see how far he has come. I am so happy that he, along with the rest of the seniors will get one last chance to put on the Buccaneer uniform,” said Strickland. The running game does not end with Gillis, junior Aaron Sivels has a smooth-running style and always seems to be able to find a hole.
Sophomores Kenny Reed and Ivory Conway will be joined by senior Landan Hajek and will make up a big portion of the receiving corps, with Reed capable of highlight-reel material. “Kenny is a great long target and can high-point the ball, he is a very gifted player. Both Ivory and Landan are quality receivers as well, who should have plenty of touches,” said Strickland.
In the trenches, with some shuffling Milford could be strong upfront. Senior Marco Olivas is expected to be a part of a line that includes Joel Oerburg, freshman Dez Alduge, sophomore Rafael Mejia, and junior Zhyaire Hammond. “This is a group that is getting shifted around a bit, but they are gelling which is very important,” said Strickland.
When asked about the season ahead, Strickland was rather philosophical. “My first hope is that we get all the games in and everyone stays safe. When you look at the schedule, there is nothing easy about it, so we are going to have to work hard every day. The scoreboard may not reflect the effort, but I know the guys will leave it all on the field,” Strickland concluded.
Milford opens this Friday at Caravel; no visiting fans are allowed to attend.