By Kevin Eickman
“Wake up!” That was the constant chorus being shared from the Buccaneers coaches and staff who had made the trip up to Delcastle to watch this past Saturday’s football game. Yet for the entire first half of the contest, Milford refused to respond. Whether it was one of six first half turnovers or the multitude of mental gaffs, the Buccaneers simply could not get out of their own way. Whether it was an issue of playing down to their competition, or just the fact of another noon kickoff in New Castle County, Milford was not ready to play.
Against most teams these mistakes would have led to an absolute blowout of a loss. However, Milford somehow managed to stay in the game. This was based on a defense that stood up to a constant onslaught and a Delcastle offense that refused to take advantage of the opportunities handle to them by the Bucs. No matter the reason, somehow Milford found themselves trailing only 8-0 as the teams entered the halftime locker rooms. “There was no excuse for how we came out today, we could barely move the ball and even when we did, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Coach Jed Bell said. “You have to really tip your hat to our defense for keeping us in the game. Without the effort they gave throughout the entire game today, we would have been losers.”
The first half would change for the better slowly in the second half for Milford, as it kept Delcastle pinned in its own territory and enjoyed good field position due to it during the third quarter. While the offense was moving the ball thanks to an offensive line that was beginning to impose its will on Delcastle, MHS still was unable to find the end zone. It wasn’t until just nine seconds remained in the quarter that Milford was able to finally score as senior quarterback John Hudson was able to scamper 10 yards for a touchdown, and with the two-point conversion, Milford was able to tie the game at 8. Hudson, who had difficulties in the first half, felt that Milford was ready to take control of the game. “Even though we started slowly, we kept at it. We could have just given up at any time, we just didn’t. The fact that I was the one to score the touchdown was just the way the play-calling went,” he said.
With momentum in its favor, the Milford defense upped its game another notch, with seniors Charles Shorts and Wilderson Alexandre leading the charge. It seemed as if every time Milford needed a big play, one of them was there to make it happen. Speaking with Shorts after the game, he contributed the strong play of the defense due to preparation. “We were ready to make plays because of film study. The reason some of mine stood out was because of the whole squad being aware of the situation.”
It looked as if Milford were ready to run away with the game, as Shorts would return a punt 63-yard punt for a touchdown with just under nine minutes to go in the game. However, another ill-timed penalty would take the touchdown off the board and force Milford to begin the drive at the Delcastle 41-yard line.
It was there that the Milford offensive line would finally take control of the game as the Bucs began to impose their will on the hosting Cougars, running the ball straight at their hosts and Delcastle unable to stop it. It would be senior DeNare Horsey who would take it in from three yards out with 6:51 remaining in the game to complete the scoring, as a failed two-point conversion attempt left MHS up 14-8.
From there, Delcastle would touch the ball just one more time. While Milford yielded a few yards, the Bucs defense got the ball back with just over four minutes remaining in the game and the Buccaneers would never give it back. “Our offensive line really stepped up their game in the second half and showed what we could do,” Horsey said. “This wasn’t a pretty win, but we hung in there and got our act together.”
While happy to get the win, Bell was hard pressed to feel anything but relieved following the victory. “We can’t come out and not play four quarters of football and expect to win. An early wake-up, a long bus ride, a noon kick is no excuse for how we started this game. We have to come up here in two weeks and have to do it again against Saint Mark’s. I promise you we won’t get away with this again.”
Next up on the schedule, the 2-1 Bucs will host a 1-2 Concord Friday at 7 p.m. “I am telling you right now, don’t look at their record, they are a good football team who are going to give us all we can handle. If we don’t start four quarters of football together and I mean right now, we are going to get left in the dust this season,” Bell concluded.
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