Gillis leads Milford to 34-0 shutout over Indian River in opener

Marquis Gillis looks for an opening during his 76-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter Thursday night. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

DAGSBORO — Marquis Gillis did it all.

He ran, he caught a couple passes, recorded an interception and even made a play on special teams.

The Milford High junior led the Bucs to a 34-0 season-opening shutout victory over Indian River High Thursday night.

“I told people to watch him,” said coach Shaun Strickland. “He’s put in so much work this summer – three workouts a day. The kid has earned everything. He’s ready to be the workhorse.”

Gillis, in his first season at running back after switching from receiver, collected two rushing touchdowns and returned a punt for a 76-yard touchdown.

He registered 123 rushing yards on 16 carries and caught a pair of passes for 28 yards.

“We went into the half and we said, ‘we’re going to lean on you,’ and he said, ‘give me the ball.’ That’s just the kind of kid he is. We’re real excited to watch him keep going as we get into the season,” Strickland added.

In total, the Bucs recorded two offensive, one defensive and two special teams touchdowns.

Shawn Saxon drops back to pass and looks for an open receiver.

Sophomore starting quarterback Shawn Saxon completed four of his 11 pass attempts for 54 yards.

Senior running back Jabraih Luke ran for 30 yards on eight carries and also caught one pass for 14 yards. Sophomore running back Aaron Sivels added a 21-yard run in the second quarter.

The Bucs’ defense forced three punts and five turnovers on 12 possessions. Milford picked off one pass and recovered four fumbles.
“The defense bailed us out a few times and the special teams was phenomenal,” said Strickland.

The Bucs led just 14-0 at the halftime break behind Gillis’ two rushing touchdowns from one yard and two yards out.

After junior linebacker Bryce Wells recovered an Indian River fumble on an incomplete backwards pass attempt, the Bucs were set up with a short at IR’s 13-yard line on its first offensive possession.

It took just three plays, capped by Gillis’ one-yard TD, to put the Bucs ahead 6-0 with 10:15 remaining in the opening quarter.

“It set the tone, by being physical up front, and that’s basically what our offense is – being physical and setting the tone,” said Gillis. “Once you do that the defense gets tired.”

The Bucs didn’t score again until his second rushing TD from two yards out with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter. His two-point try made it 14-0.

Ahead by just a pair of touchdowns at the half, Milford came out of the halftime break and broke the game open with 20 third quarter points.

Jabraih Luke turns the corner during a first half rushing attempt against IR.

“We’re young, and we have guys making some young mistakes,” Strickland said. “We just had to tell them we’re killing ourselves; we’re keeping points off the scoreboard and we can’t have it.”

Ivory Conway’s 18-yard fumble recovery TD set the tone quickly.

The scoop-and-score by the sophomore defensive back gave the Bucs the 20-0 advantage with 7:54 remaining in the third.

Milford forced an IR punt on the ensuing possession, which was blocked by senior Lamonte Isabell.

Sophomore Joseph Mumford scooped the ball up just inside the IR 20-yard line and returned it the rest of the way. The two-pointer put the Bucs ahead 28-0.

“Those are guys that no one really saw last year, so it’s fun watching them,” Strickland said. “We know what they can do, and we have them in positions where we think they can be successful.”

Gillis’ punt return touchdown with 23 ticks remaining in the third quarter capped the scoring.

Even after bobbling the punt, Gillis knew he could take it all the way.

“I just ran, basically,” said Gillis. “Their angles were off, so I knew I could do it. My speed and endurance is good, so I knew I could (return) it.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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