Henlopen South foes Milford, Delmar clash in Division II football state final

The first time the Delmar High and Milford High football teams met this season there was a conference championship on the line.

Now, there’s a state title up for grabs.

The Henlopen Conference Southern Division rivals will square off again at 5:30 p.m. today at Delaware Stadium for the Division II championship.

Delmar made it to the finals as an eight seed while Milford is the fourth seed. Delmar won the first meeting between the two teams in the ninth week of the regular season 35-10 on Nov. 3.

That game is still fresh in the minds of the Buccaneers.

“A lot of times we tend to either move on (from a loss) or we just look back at a few plays that could have been difference makers,” said coach Shaun Strickland. “But this was one we dissected thoroughly. It’s familiar.”

Delmar enters the game on a 10-game winning streak and with an 11-1 overall record. Milford comes into the contest at 9-3.

It’s the first Division II state title game to feature two Henlopen South teams since 2008. Milford beat Laurel that year, which was also the last time the Buccaneers had won a playoff game until this season.

Delmar’s last championship appearance was in 2009 when the Wildcats won the title.

Milford reached the postseason last year but Delmar made it back into the tournament this season for the first time since 2013. The Wildcats went 1-9 two years ago before a 6-4 mark in 2016.

Delmar was on track to make the playoffs last season before a loss to Milford in the second to last week, then a loss to eventual state champion Woodbridge followed.

Despite not reaching the tournament, Delmar coach Dave Hearn could see signs he had a special team.

“Last year for sure,” Hearn said. “We played well all the way through the season then lost to two good teams in Milford and Woodbridge. They beat us soundly and out-played us. We had played well up to that point and we got handled in some areas. You learn from those mistakes and make adjustments. It was a learning experience last year but we had a lot of kids back who lived through that.”

Since Delmar won the Henlopen South regular season title, Strickland says the Wildcats should be the favorite coming into today’s game.
And he says the Buccaneers relish the underdog role.

“That’s been the fun part since I’ve been here,” Strickland said. “No matter what our record’s shown — even last year when we were going 8-0, 9-1 — we still end up being the underdog somehow. We love it.

“The numbers, in terms of who’s home, who’s away, don’t mean anything,” he added. “We could have been eight and they could have been one just as easily. In our minds, they’re the better team. They beat us and did what they had to do. We know we’re the underdogs and we’ve got to come out and play.”

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