Milford beats Lake Forest in Battle of the Bell

Milford running back Aaron Sivels breaks open for a touchdown in the first quarter against Lake Forest on Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/ Butch Comegys)

FELTON — The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on the Milford High football team.

The Buccaneers have been able to play only four of their first six scheduled games.

And, when Milford took the field for the Battle of the Bell on Monday evening, it had only 25 players available for various reasons.

But, when they left the field, the Bucs were happily carrying the bell trophy with them and that it seemed to make it all worth it.

Aaron Sivels carried for 157 yards and three touchdowns to lead Milford to a 29-12 victory over rival Lake Forest.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak in the series for the Bucs (2-2) who were playing just their second game since Nov. 6.

“To finally have it, it feels great,” Sivels said about getting back the bell. “That was our main goal (this season). It we didn’t do anything else, we wanted that bell.

Lake Forest receiver Jalen Morris fumbles the football, but quickly recovers as Milford’s Marquis Gillis closes in on Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys)

“It was hard,” he said about having games canceled. “But when we found out we were going to get Lake, it was all right with us. That’s all we cared about was playing Lake and getting this bell back.”

“In a year of COVID, where who knows what the playoffs will look like and things like that, this is the Super Bowl for us,” said Milford coach Shaun Strickland. “That’s awesome. To have our seniors go home with the bell, that’s a great way to send them out.”

In a game that started an hour late after a heavy thunderstorm passed through before kickoff, the Bucs led the Spartans (1-4) just 7-6 in the second quarter.

Milford running back Marquis Gillis breaks away from the pack of Lake Forest defenders for a big gain on Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys)

Sivels, though, broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run with 4:35 left before halftime to give Milford some more breathing room. He then scored on a 15-yarder two minutes later to give the Bucs a more-comfortable 22-6 advantage at intermission.

Lake Forest pulled within 22-12 in the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Jonathan Tyndall lobbed a nice 30-yard scoring pass to Jalen Morris to get the Spartans back within 10.

But Marquis Gillis got loose for a 52-yard touchdown run with 10:19 left in the contest to pretty much seal the win for Milford. Gillis, who also scored on a two-point conversion run, almost matched Sivels with 155 yards on 14 carries.

“We played hard, we played fast,” said Strickland. “Our backs ran well. The two-headed monster — Sivels came out ready and then Gillis, when he hits that second gear. … it’s hard to defend those guys.”

“The ‘O’ line did their part and created the holes,” said Sivels. “I just hit the holes and got my touchdowns.”

Lake Forest, which was also playing its first game since Nov. 13, got 88 yards and a TD on 23 carries from senior running back Kendall Smith.

The Spartans lost senior QB Damian Galindez to an injury when he took a hard hit trying to score on a two-point conversion attempt in the second quarter.

Lake Forest had a chance to score a few more times in the first half. The Spartans drove to the Milford 11 on their opening drive and then to the Bucs’ five on the final drive of the second quarter without getting any points.

Both drives ended on fourth-down incompletions in the end zone.

Milford and Lake Forest both now have short weeks to prepare for their season finales on Friday. The Spartans host Indian River in a South contest at 5 p.m. while the Bucs travel to Sussex Central at 7 p.m. for a North game.

Strickland knows it won’t be easy for Milford to make the quick turnaround to face a Golden Knight squad that has won four in a row.

“We’ve got a roster of 25 kids out here,” he said. “We’re going as hard as we can. We scratched and clawed all season. Our guys have played hard against bigger teams with deeper rosters. But we never give up. We’re going to give it our best shot.”