A year ago the Wilmington Friends Quakers eliminated the Milford Buccaneers in the Division II playoffs, but Saturday afternoon, the Bucs turned the tables, defeating the Quakers 14-7 in the DII semifinals at St. Mark’s High School.
The Bucs were led by a strong running attack on the offensive end of the ball, paired with a smothering defensive attack that put the squeeze on the Quakers for much of the day.
Dynamic running back DJ Bowman accounted for both Milford touchdowns Saturday, each on long runs.
“I always give my thanks to the line,” Bowman said after his performance. “They know if they open up a good hole for me I’m going to run as hard as I can, and I got into the end zone.”
Meanwhile, the Bucs’ defense kept Friends quiet, giving up only a touchdown pass late in the game.
Both offenses were held in check for much of the first quarter until Bowman broke free for his first score, a 25-yard touchdown run to put Milford up 7-0.
Just a few minutes into the second quarter, Bowman burned the Quakers again, fighting through multiple tackles down the sidelines on his way to a 44-yard touchdown for a 14-0 advantage, which they held until halftime.
Milford continued to lead 14-0 throughout the third and much of the fourth quarter. Then Friends made things interesting.
After failing to convert through the air for much of the game, the Quakers were in desperation mode with just under five minutes to go, needing to throw the ball and score fast. After moving his way into Milford territory, QB Wyatt Nelson found Quentin McAbee for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the Bucs lead to 14-7.
The Quaker defense would force a three-and-out on Milford’s next possession, getting the ball back late with a chance to tie.
A good punt by Jonathan Gaglione deep in their own end put Friends in a tough position, still needing seven points to tie. Milford’s defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs which led to a few kneel downs and a Buccaneers victory.
They head to the DIAA Division II Football state championship game for the first time since 2008.
Milford will take on the surprising No. 8 Delmar Wildcats, who’ve made it all the way to the championship after eliminating No. 1 Delaware Military Academy and No. 2 A.I. duPont.
Knowing the task at hand, Bowman says he and his team go into each game with the same mindset.
“We’re confident every week, no matter who we play,” Bowman said. “ It’s not about being cocky or anything, we come out here knowing we’re going to play as hard as we can.”
The Bucs and Wildcats met earlier this month, a 35-10 win for Delmar.
Saturday, the two will do battle again at the University of Delaware; kickoff is 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought online at statechamps.com/DIAA.