By Kevin Eickman
As the clock was hitting zero in Friday’s Cape Henlopen’s visit to Milford, it was obvious that the Buccaneers comeback attempt was going to come up short. Haven driven the ball down to the Vikings’ doorstep, Milford was down to its final play from the visitors’ 11-yard line. Bucs junior quarterback Shawn Saxon stepped a bit to his right and found senior Landon Hajek at the one-yard line, he just simply could not make it across the goal line. It was yet another in a long list of mistakes that left Milford wondering “What if?”
In a game of distinctively different halves, Milford was left to wonder about a first half implosion that had left it searching for answers. Top among them was how to stop the Vikings running game, led by senior Jaden Davis. Davis would end the game with over 200 yards and five touchdowns as Milford could not contain him. “Davis is one hell of a running back and he showed it tonight (Friday). We missed some tackles, but he was a force tonight. There is nothing you can do but tip your hat to the young man,” Milford coach Shaun Strickland stated.
It didn’t have to be that way however as Milford had its chances. It was able to move the ball quite nicely in the first half, mostly behind the running of senior Marquis Gillis. Each time Milford found itself knocking on the door however, something would just go wrong. Whether it was a self-inflicted penalty or a pass just going off the fingertips of a receiver the Bucs simply couldn’t get it done when it counted. “We had a few real good chances to keep pace with them in the first half, we just couldn’t get it done,” said Strickland.
The most painful element of the first half however were the Milford penalties, and believe it there were plenty of them. False starts, off-sides, blocks in the back and most importantly, personal fouls. The latter of which would lead to the ejection of two Milford players and one Cape player. It was to the point where Milford was left to do a great deal of soul searching as the Buccaneers entered the locker room trailing 28-7. “The lack of discipline in the first half was astoundingly disappointing. That is not the type of football we strive to play and quite frankly I was embarrassed by it,” Strickland said.
Strickland stressed his expectations to the team and to his credit they responded. After completing just one pass in the first half, Saxon began to heat up. Finding the open man and moving the offense surgically. It was a result of the Vikings defense keying on Gillis and Saxon stepping up his game. “The numbers in the first half for Shawn in the first half were a little deceiving. While his completions weren’t there, his passes were very close. We had two potential touchdown passes just hit off the tips of the receivers’ fingertips. We need to convert those chances into points.”
The second half did not start as Milford had wanted as after an exchange of punts left Cape in Milford territory, The Vikings made quick work of the opportunity as Davis would collect his fourth score of the night. It was then that Milford decided to make a game of it.
With Milford moving the ball well, it worked it down to the Cape 15-yard line. From there, Gillis would take it in for the score as Milford closed the gap to 34-14. It would not be the last time Gillis would leave the Milford faithful enthusiastic.
As Cape was forced to punt deep inside Milford territory, Gillis demonstrated his athleticism once again, as he rushed up the middle, blocked the Cape punt and scooped the ball up to bring it the eight yards into the end zone as Milford was now making a game of it, closing the gap to 34-21 with over 10 minutes of time left on the clock. “That is what Marquis Gillis is all about, he just plays all out all the time. He never takes a play off and always brings his best game when it counts,” Strickland said.
On the ensuing possession, Cape would move the ball across midfield. Facing a fourth and seven, the Vikings would choose to go for it, the move backfired as Cape could not gain the yardage it needed as an attempted pass was incomplete.
Milford took advantage of the opportunity, marching straight down the field. The key play would be a 30-yard pass from Saxon to junior Aaron Sivels. The Buccaneers would come up just short of the goal line, as Sivels would rip off a 15-yard run down to the one-yard line. Saxon would take it in from one yard out as Milford had closed the gap once again, down by six as the score became 34-28 with 7:04 remaining in the game.
The Vikings would respond however on a time-consuming drive as Davis sprang to life once again. Even with Milford stacking the line, the Bucs were unable to stop them. A key offside by Milford would aid the drive, culminating with Davis taking the ball in for the game’s final tally, with just over a minute remaining.
“We have a road game at Delmar next week and if we play like we did tonight, we won’t stand a chance,” Strickland said.
Following the game, Strickland was quite blunt. “We are going to have to stare ourselves long and hard in the mirror. We can’t make as many mistakes as we did tonight and expect to win. We have a road game at Delmar next week and if we play like we did tonight, we won’t stand a chance. It’s up to us as a team to fix the issues and play the way we are capable of; we simply can’t win like this.”