By Kevin Eickman
The Milford Buccaneers boys soccer team had completed an undefeated regular season. Following Monday’s final regular-season 3-0 victory against visiting Sussex Central, it was time for coach Todd French to address his team. While he congratulated them, he also reminded them that there is still a lot of heavy lifting ahead.
“You guys have lived up to your potential to this point, but we know this is just the first step for us. We are Henlopen North champions, that’s was our first goal of the year, but we know we have a more difficult task ahead of us. We aren’t finished yet, we have work to do and we are going to do it.” This year’s 11-0-1 regular-season record is the only other regular-season undefeated Milford team since the 1986 squad.
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The game started with Central attempting to play up high and make Milford uncomfortable. It was an ill-conceived plan which the visitors soon abandoned. “We were a little surprised to see them pressing up so high, but at the same time, we were happy to see it. Once we established how quickly we could counterattack, they backed off a bit,” French said.
Milford slowly began to turn up the heat as the first half progressed, with solid play in all facets of the game. The Buccaneers had their chances, but it took them a while to connect. They would finally find the back of the net off a corner, as senior Luke Bogan pounced on a loose ball in the box in the game’s 23rd minute.
“Getting the first goal was very important tonight, anytime you score first it takes the pressure off your team and puts it on your opponents. We really like playing from in front and I think that when we got that goal there we really settled down,” Bogan stated
The Bucs kept up the pressure with freshman Luke Sollie seemingly all over the field, challenging balls and trying to keep the Milford attack moving forward. Sollie’s persistence paid off in the game’s 30th minute as he broke through the middle of the Central defense, finding himself one on one with the keeper from 25 yards out. Sollie remained calm, got the ball where he wanted it and blasted it to the back of the net.
“You have to stay calm and focused in that situation. I knew how big a second goal would be, so I just kept my focus on the play, didn’t get over-excited and did my job,” Sollie stated. When asked about the potential of Sollie, coach French did not hold back. “His potential is off the charts, he has the physical tools and mental understanding for the game. It would not surprise me at all if he is one of the top players in Delaware in the years ahead.”
The game’s final goal would come in the game’s 57th minute as a pass back from a Sussex Central defender went right past the keeper to find the back of the net. With Milford now firmly in control, it was simply a matter of staying focus. The key to that focus was senior captain Manny Carranza taking crucial corners and making key defensive stops, from the back of the field to the front. Of all the players in the game, Carranza was the one whose motor was running faster than any other player on the field as the game came to its conclusion.
“You have to keep going, you can’t let up, because once you do the other team will jump on it. We wanted this game tonight, but this isn’t it for us. We are going to work even harder the rest of the way, we are going to continue to try and improve,” Carranza said.
When asked about Carranza, French had nothing but praise for his senior captain. “You saw it, you see how he plays, that’s why he is a captain on this team. I can put him anywhere on the pitch and he can play the position. He is one of the biggest reasons we are where we are.”