By Kevin Eickman
About as far south you can get in Delaware is a little town called Delmar, a town that loves its Friday night football and offers an intimate setting to play in with a very supportive crowd. While it is hard enough to when there when you play your best, it is almost impossible to do when you commit mistakes. Last Friday, Milford made those mistakes at crucial times, and it cost the Bucs dearly. It wasn’t that the Buccaneers played poorly, they just were not the better team in a crucial 29-22 loss.
The game ended with Milford needing a crucial defensive stop, but unable to provide it as the Wildcats ran out the clock to win the game. As a result, Milford is facing a must-win at home against Lake Forest and some help to secure a state tournament berth.
The problems for Milford began on the game’s opening play when a squib kick towards the right side of the Buccaneers’ return team bounced off a Milford player and was eagerly gathered up by the Wildcats. From there, it became clear that an in-sync Delmar offense marched right down the field in just four plays to record the game’s first points and jump to a 7-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game.
“We were expecting that kick, but you never know how it is going to bounce. On that play, Delmar got the bounce, and our defense did not respond, that is not the way you want to start a football game,” coach Jed Bell said.
Milford would be quick to respond on offense as it got another big play for senior DenNare Horsey, who would bust a run right up the middle from 37 yards out for a touchdown. Milford would attempt a two-point conversion which was stuffed by Delmar as the Wildcats maintained their lead at 7-6 with 10:44 remaining in the first quarter. With both teams scoring so quickly, the possibility of a high scoring game might be forthcoming. However, both defenses would settle down as a battle of running games developed.
Milford would stop Delmar on the ensuing possession. Starting at 40, the Buccaneers would work their way deep into Delmar territory, where the Wildcat defense would stiffen. At the Delmar 18, the Bucs would attempt a quarterback sneak and a running play trying for the first down. Neither would work and Milford would turn the ball over on downs. This would be the first of a few Milford opportunities that the Bucs would be left to reflect on.
“When you play a team like Delmar, you have to take advantage when those opportunities present themselves, tonight we didn’t. You have to tip your hat to Delmar, that is a hell of a football team over there,” Bell said.
Milford would force a punt attempt on Delmar’s next possession and what should have been a routine punt turned into an adventure as an errant snap was chased down by the Wildcat punter who somehow made a pass attempt from his own 20. The ball would bounce off the chest of a Milford defender, but the Bucs would still have good field possession on their 40.
The Milford offense finally found its footing and was moving the ball well down the field, mixing in a pass here and there as it looked poised to take the lead. Disaster would strike as Milford would fumble on the Delmar two, ending the drive in demoralizing fashion. Delmar would move the ball quickly down the field but would fail to cash in as the Buccaneers defense would hold strong at their 25, with the teams entering the locker room with Delmar still holding on to the 7-6 lead.
Delmar would get the ball to start the second half and the offense would demonstrate just how potent it can be, running the ball inside and outside, Milford could do little to stop them. It would culminate in a six-yard Delmar touchdown run and successful two-point conversion, extending its lead to 14-6 with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Milford would respond quickly as Horsey would take a handoff right up the gut, blazing 46 yards for a touchdown. With a successful two-point conversion, Milford and Delmar found themselves all-square at 14, with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Delmar would be quick to respond however, after gaining possession on its 46. The Wildcats would move the ball down to the Buccaneers’ 29, with the Milford defense forcing the Wildcats into a third and 10 situations. It was there that Delmar would toss a dagger at Milford as a wide-open junior Khalid Schoolfield would gather the ball in for the touchdown and a huge momentum shift with Delmar now on top 21-14, the situation for Milford was now becoming urgent.
Things would go from bad to worse for the Buccaneers as they were forced to start their next possession at their three. Unable to move the ball, a Milford punt would be returned to the Buccaneers’ 25. The Wildcats would take advantage of the miscue as the Milford defense could not stop the running
attack as Delmar would extend its advantage to 29-14 on a two-point conversion with time rapidly becoming a factor.
Milford would move the ball down the field, but the clock continued to run. With the Wildcat defense stiffening inside their 10. It would take a key touchdown run from Horsey and a successful two-point conversion as Milford still had a chance with 4:26 remaining in the game.
Delmar would not wilt however, as its running game would take over, running out the clock and earning the victory.
Milford (6-3) will host Lake Thursday in the annual Battle of The Bell with a great deal on the line, possibly even a spot in the state tournament. Speaking with coach Bell after the game, the last thing on his mind was the playoffs.
“This was a tough one without a doubt. I don’t know about the playoff points and to be honest I don’t care. Lake is a very good football team, that has owned us recently, with our only win against them in about eight years coming during the COVID season when Lake had more than half their team out. We have to get ready for a battle, we have to play our best. That’s all we are focus on right now, getting ready for next week and a very good team we know is going to come ready to play.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
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