It’s always spicy when Milford and Lake Forest get together in athletics. Last Friday night, however, it was a little more rugged than usual. With the visiting Spartans coming in with a chip on their shoulder, they were not going to go down without a fight. Lake came into the contest winless, while the Buccaneers were sporting a perfect 3-0 record on Senior Night at Briggs Stadium.
During the first half, the speed and agility that Milford demonstrated indicated that it would probably make quick work of Lake. The Buccaneers enjoyed a tremendous advantage in possession, staying on the front foot and generating several runs following Lake Forest turnovers. There was only one problem however, while Milford was controlling the pace of play, it was unable to find the back of the net. “We had several chances in the first half to get an early goal, but we just didn’t execute the final part of plays we needed to make,” Milford coach Todd French said.
Milford’s first chance to gain the lead would come as senior Manny Caranza blasted a shot off the crossbar in the 17th minute. The ball lofted harmlessly over the goal but demonstrated MHS was knocking on the door. With the Buccaneers keeping up the pressure, the game’s first goal looked inevitable. “I really liked the way we came out attacking and passing in the first half, unfortunately it just wasn’t translating to goals,” French said.
The Lake defense would finally relent as Milford was able to garner the game’s first goal in the 19th minute. On another Milford shot that just barely missed the mark, this time hitting the left post, Lake was unable to clear the ball from danger. With the ball in the air and the Lake defense out of position, Buccaneer senior Alex Mergner headed the ball into the net for the game’s first score. “It was really great to see a senior like Alex who always is hustling get that goal. He was in the right place at the right time and made the most of it,” French stated.
Milford would continue to apply the pressure for the remainder of the first half. Hitting the crossbar one time, while again bouncing one off the post. While MHS was still controlling the run of play, it was failing to increase its advantage. The Buccaneers would finally double their advantage to 2-0 as senior Sammy Dominguez would find the middle of the net just before the half in the 38th minute on a solid strike. It would be an advantage that Milford would take into the half, expecting to up the tally in the game’s second stanza.
The expected Milford run on goals was not to come however, as both teams came out much more physical to begin the second half. While both teams were demonstrating a rough and tumble mentality, it was MHS that seemed to suffer for it. While both teams began to play a little more chippy, it was the Buccaneers that appeared to be the worse for it. “That is not our game, we don’t play the other team’s game, we play ours. The way we played the second half is not what we are about. We have a very high bar for ourselves and tonight (Friday) we did not play like we are capable of,” French said.
As the Buccaneers began to lose focus, Lake began to find a bit of a rhythm. While the Spartans had been playing defense for almost the entire first half, they began to pressure the Milford defense to the point it might break. That would be exactly what would happen in the game’s 67th minute as Lake’s Declan McGrillis halved the Bucs’ lead, with plenty of game left to play. “That was a nice goal by Declan, but we really needed to close that down instead of leaving so much space,” French said.
While Milford would take more of a defensive posture, it was also trying to counter and gain a higher advantage. Things would come to a head however in the game’s final two minutes as tempers flared, and red cards were shown after a hard out of bounds play by Lake. A Milford player retaliated, then a third player from Lake joined the fray. In all, Milford suffered one ejection, while Lake lost two players due to red. “That is not what we want to have happen. It was a very physical game, but there was no need for what happened at the end of the game.” French said.
With games looming against Laurel and Caesar Rodney this week, French believes that he will know a great deal more about his team. “This is a big week for us, we need these games and hope to get them. Like I have said, we have set a high bar for ourselves, we have to work harder to achieve that.”