Herka lifts Milford over Delmar 13-12

MILFORD – With 1:31 remaining in a 12-12 ball game, Milford High boys’ lacrosse coach Blake Faulkner decided to trust in his players rather than burn his last timeout.

The plan worked as junior Alex Herka scored the go-ahead goal at the 1:10 mark of the fourth quarter and the Bucs held on to clinch a 13-12 season-opening victory over Delmar High Wednesday night at Briggs Stadium.

“It was really just relying on our players,” explained Faulkner. “We had a timeout in hand, but it was kind of like a decision you have to make as a coach, do you want to burn it and try to set something up or do you just want to kind of let them do what they’ve been doing?”

The game-winner was the sixth goal of the game for Herka, who also racked up six ground balls in the Henlopen South win.

“It was all coach really, he had the perfect play book and we just went out there and did our role and it just worked out,” said Herka.

“He was ready to go for today and it showed,” said Faulkner of Herka. “He came out ready to go and he didn’t stop.”

Senior Jonathan Gaglione, senior Jordan Passwaters and junior Gaige Hayes recorded two goals each for the Bucs, with junior Conor Christie adding five assists. Sophomore Landan Hajek finished with one goal.

The game featured seven ties and three lead changes.

“I saw the team playing together,” said Herka. “A lot of pressure, but we held it together, moved it around and played as a team. We weren’t selfish all game and we just executed and made it happen pretty much.”

With goalkeeper Shane Gaglione lost to graduation last year, junior Gaij Copes stepped in and made his first ever start at goalie for the Bucs.

“Gaij did great for his first time, we put a lot of pressure on him in practice,” Herka said. “First time playing goalie and starting at varsity, so we put a lot of pressure on him and he did good. He really did good, I was proud, I was happy for him.”

“He was a midfielder for us a little bit last year, but he had some injury problems and stuff like that, but he was willing to take on the goalie aspect of it this year,” Faulkner said of Copes’ debut.

Delmar put up a pair of quick goals at the 4:26 and 3:03 mark of the opening quarter to take the early 2-0 lead, but Herka came back to score a pair of goals just 10 seconds apart to knot the game with 1:38 remaining in the quarter.

His first goal, at 1:48, marked the junior’s 100th career point.

“At that point, I wasn’t thinking about my 100th career point, I was thinking about coming back in the game and winning. Really, I just want to win,” he said. “It feels great though, I wish I could’ve done it sooner, but it feels good.”

Delmar controlled the scoreboard for much of the first half, scoring a goal with 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter and putting up three more in the first 6:09 of the second quarter to build the early 6-3 lead.

Milford built up some momentum in the final two minutes of the half, with Passwaters and Hayes notching goals to bring the Bucs to within 6-5 at the break.

Passwaters took just 28 seconds into the second half to knot the game 6-6 with his second goal, but Delmar’s Dante Trader put the Wildcats back on top at the 7:41 mark.

Gaglione was kept off the scoreboard for the first half, but finally broke free and put consecutive goals in the back of the net at the 5:09 and 3:47 marks of the third quarter to put the Bucs back in control, 8-7.

“It took him a little while to settle in, I think, but once he did it was the Jon Gaglione we’ve known for four years now,” Faulkner said.

Trader, once again, had an answer for Delmar as he slipped one past the goalkeeper with just six seconds remaining in the quarter to tie the game 8-8.

After Bryce Wells won the ensuing faceoff, Herka notched his fifth goal of the game with two seconds to spare in the third to give Milford just its second lead of the night.

Just 1:13 into the fourth quarter Hayes extended the lead to two goals.

The fourth quarter featured 10-10, 11-11 and 12-12 ties before Herka’s go-ahead goal with just over a minute to spare.

The Bucs took back over control of the ball with 52 seconds remaining and, after burning their final timeout, managed to kill the remaining time on the clock to come away with the win.

“We were just going over understanding to keep it in the box, to keep it away,” Faulkner said of the late timeout talk. “We’ve had a hard time of that in the past, and it’s really kind of bitten us in the butt, but we did a good job of making sure we controlled the tempo of the game there at the end.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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