On Saturday night, the Milford Buccaneers wrapped up an incredible 2017 season coming up just short of a Division II State Championship, falling to the Delmar Wildcats, 14-7 at Delaware Stadium.
The Wildcats ended an improbable run to the Division II State Championship as the No. 8 seed, fighting past the No. 4 Buccaneers for their first DII title since 2009. Delmar broke a 7-7 tie as the first half expired and rode a strong defensive effort the rest of the way for their Division II record seventh state title.
In what amounted to a defensive battle, the Wildcats made just enough plays to hold off the Buccaneers who were looking for their first state title since 2008.
The Wildcats opened the scoring Saturday night on a Te’Shawn Dennard 58-yard touchdown run on an option play just over two minutes into the game.
Trailing 7-0, the Buccaneers responded in the opening seconds of the second quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Tayone’ Matthews, capping off a drive that began in latter have of the first quarter thanks to big plays by running back DJ Bowman and wideout Tyron Mifflin.
With just seconds to go in the half, Jacob VonArx fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Carson Phillips as the half expired, giving the Wildcats a 14-7 lead at the break.
VonArx and freshman Dante Trader split time behind center throughout the second half for the Wildcats as they looked to keep the Bucs guessing. Milford had an answer for Delmar’s offense in the second half, keeping them off the scoreboard the rest of the way. However, the Wildcat’s defense was also up for the challenge, stymying the Bucs’ offense at every turn. Delmar made several defensive stops and takeaways in the second half, including an interception and a turnover-on-downs in the waning seconds of the game.
Milford finished the season 7-3 overall, earning the No. 4 overall seed - they’d go on to defeat Woodbridge in the opening round, 24-23, before advancing to the state title game after a 14-7 win over Wilmington Friends in the semifinals.
The Bucs will be without 11 seniors who will graduate this spring, including Tyreke Benson, Thomas Eisenbrey and DJ Bowman who were all members of the varsity team since their freshman years.
While Milford will certainly miss their seniors, especially Bowman who had become one of the state’s most dynamic running backs and a strong player on the defensive end too - there will be plenty of talent back in the fold come next season.
A large group of freshman and sophomores were exposed to the biggest stage Division II football has to offer and the this year’s juniors will be seniors, ready to fill leadership roles.
Milford should have quarterback Tayone’ Matthews back behind center, as well as running back Rahshawn Price and wideout Tyron Mifflin. A large part of both offensive and defensive lines will be back as well, along with kicker Jonathan Gaglione, who proved to be a vital weapon for the Bucs.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Milford, but they’ve ended it with plenty to hang their hats on. With some talent returning next fall, this could be only the beginning of Milford’s rise within the Henlopen South and Division II as a whole.