Milford boys win Henlopen soccer crown

Milford’s (from left) Aaron Sollie, Sam Dominguez and Alexander Davis celebrate a goal late in the first half to tie the score 1-1 with Indian River. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

FREDERICA — The Milford High boys’ soccer program had waited three decades to celebrate a moment like this.

And the Buccaneers looked like they enjoyed every minute of it.

Milford’s players happily posed for picture after picture with the Henlopen Conference championship trophy after earning it with a 3-1 victory over Indian River at DE Turf on Tuesday night.

The Northern Division champion Bucs last won a Henlopen crown in 1989 but captured it with their second 3-1 win this season over the South champion Indians. The fact that Milford remained unbeaten at 12-0-1 was just icing on the cake.

“We’ve been looking for it all season,” said senior Manny Carranza. “We knew this was going to be the year. We just had to keep fighting. We’ve been going at it since our freshman year. This was everything I dreamed of.”

“It’s been a long time,” said senior Luke Bogan. “I loved our intensity, how we came out and started the game. We know they’re a tough team. We knew they’d be ready for us.”

Omar Baker of Indian River advances the ball ahead of Milford’s Emanuelle Carranza (left) and Luke Bogan. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Indeed, IR (11-2) took a 1-0 lead 33 minutes on a goal from Willem Lambertson. But Carranza tied the contest four minutes later before Milford sealed the victory with a pair of second-half goals.

Samuel Dominguez netted the game-winner before Aaron Sollie added an insurance goal with 12:33 remaining.

“Coach (Steve) Kilby is an amazing coach,” Milford coach Todd French said about his IR counterpart. “We knew, him seeing us the first time, he’d be able to change what he needed to and it showed. We had trouble putting the ball away at first.

“But, we’re such a team that, once we start scoring, it’s hard for us to stop.”

Milford went just 9-6 last season, which included a five-game losing streak.

But, with 13 seniors on his roster this year, French knew the Bucs had a chance to have a great season once the decision was made to play fall sports in Delaware. The results so far have been everything he could have imagined.

Milford’s Alexander Davis and Jax Cathell of Indian River racing for the ball in the first half. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“It’s just a great feeling,” said French. “I don’t have the words right now. Every single one of those kids is deserving of this.

“To be honest, our first goal was to win the division — because we knew we couldn’t win the conference without winning the division. Our second goal — and probably our biggest goal since last year — was to win the conference.”

“If you had told me last year this is where we’d be, I would have told you you’re lying,” said Bogan.

Milford out-shot IR, 9-3, in the contest after getting out-shot by the Indians in the first meeting. IR goalie Bastian Perry made a pair of saves.

In that first game, the Bucs also fell behind 1-0 before scoring three unanswered goals.

French admits that, before the season, his team might have thought that winning anything beyond a conference championship would be a bonus.

But he doesn’t see any reason why Milford can’t be considered a serious contender for the DIAA Division I state title. Seeded third, the Bucs open the state tourney on Saturday by hosting No. 6 Middletown (8-2) at 4 p.m.

“I think they’re going to do a good job in the next few days of changing their mindset and saying, ‘We can challenge for anything,’” said French.

“We’ve got to keep this momentum going,” said Bogan. “We’ve still got another game.”

“People are doubting us and everything,’ said Carranza. “We’ve got to keep on working after this.”