By Kevin Eickman
It was all but over now; Milford was 90 yards away from the Delmar end zone and the clock showed just five seconds left. With half the Delmar defense at about midfield, there wasn’t much choice for junior quarterback Shawn Saxon who threw a short pass to senior Marquis Gillis. As good as Gillis may be, there was no way he was going to go the distance. As he was taken to the ground, what had been a difficult week for Milford came to an end.
While they may have lost, coach Shaun Strickland was proud of how his team had played. Undermanned because of a few player departures, Milford was thin, especially upfront. “We had some guys that just didn’t want to be here, they didn’t want to be a part of what we are trying to build here. The guys on the field tonight, they are Buccaneers and I couldn’t be prouder of them. With a few breaks this game could have been ours, but the game is not always about the scoreboard, it’s about turning young adults into men,” Strickland stated.
The game had started optimistically for Milford as it recovered an onside kick on the game’s opening play, setting up shop at midfield. The Buccaneers were able to get the ball to the Wildcat 20-yard line, before a miscue and a sack brought the drive to an end with the Bucs failing to convert on a fourth and 25.
After the two teams traded punts, Delmar would take over inside its own territory. Slowly and methodically, the Wildcats moved the ball down the field, primarily running the ball right up the middle of what looked to be a soft Milford defensive front. As the second quarter began, Delmar would score from five yards out for the game’s first score and a 7-0 lead.
The Buccaneers were able to respond and once again drove the ball deep into Wildcat territory. The drive came down to a 4th and 11 from the Delmar 15-yard line. Saxon connected with Gillis in the flat, who proceeded to take it to the house. A failed extra point would leave the Buccaneers trailing with 6:53 remaining in a fast-moving first half. That would be the score the two teams would take into the locker rooms.
After the teams exchanged turnovers on back to back plays, Delmar would take over on the Milford 45-yard line midway through the third quarter. The Wildcats responded to their good fortune with another time-consuming drive, culminating in a short touchdown run by Delmar sophomore Jaylin Warner with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The extra point made it 14-6 Delmar.
The Delmar defense remained sound, not allowing much in the way of scoring opportunities for the Buccaneers. Delmar appeared to ice the game with just over eight minutes remaining as it capped another sustained drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by junior Rajay Allen.
It was then that the Milford offense came to life, relying mostly on the arm of Saxon. Milford would drive the ball down to the one-yard line, where Saxon would take it in on a keeper. With the extra point, Milford now trailed 20-13 with 5:42 remaining.
With Delmar starting the ensuing drive on its eight-yard line, the Bucs defense stiffened and forced a three and out. Allowing Milford to set up shop at the Delmar 35-yard line with just over four minutes remaining. Milford had a potential touchdown slip through the hands of a receiver, then on the very next play, Saxon was picked off to end any chance the Buccaneers had of winning the game. “We left it all on the field tonight, that’s all I can ask of the team. Delmar is never an easy place to win and we almost did it tonight. We will go to the film, fix what we can and move on,” Strickland said.
Milford will face a tall order this week as it hosts Smyrna Thursday in what is its final home game of the season.