Milford making most of season

MILFORD — The whole thing was lined up pretty nicely.

Milford High’s boys’ soccer team was clearly getting better.

Todd French

A year ago, the Buccaneers finished 9-6 — and they had 14 seniors coming back this fall.

But when the coronavirus pandemic came along, suddenly Milford didn’t even know if it was going to have a season.

“It was the most stressful off-season we’ve ever had,” said Bucs’ coach Todd French. “It was the unknown, knowing how good we would be and people might not have ever known about this team.”

State officials allowed the season to be played after all, of course, and Milford is indeed making its presence felt in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division this season.

The Bucs are 3-0-1 in the North, 6-0-1 overall as they try to make the DIAA state tournament for the first time since 2016 when they were in Division II. They’ve out-scored their first seven opponents by a combined, 25-4, with three shutouts.

For that matter, Milford still has as good a shot as any team at winning the North championship. The Bucs haven’t won a league title since 1989, when they won the last of their six conference crowns.

“Milford hasn’t won the conference in 31 years,” said French, who is in his eighth season as head coach. “The kids know it. They were actually disappointed when we didn’t beat CR because they knew that would be a huge step.

“They know if we win conference, everything after that is a little icing. We’ll just see how far we can go in the state tournament.”

A year ago, Milford’s game with Caesar Rodney seemed to break the momentum of their season.

While the Bucs lost only 2-1 to the Riders — on a goal in the final two minutes — it started them on a stretch of six losses in their next seven games. They had been 6-0 before the setback.

French said his players are determined not to let the same thing happen this fall.

Last week, Milford tied with CR, 1-1. The Bucs out-shot the Riders, 8-5, and held a 9-4 edge in corner kicks but allowed the tying goal in the 44th minute.

Still, it was Milford’s first non-loss to CR since 2012 when it tied the Riders, 2-2.

Maybe just as importantly, the Bucs came right back and downed Polytech, 5-0, on Tuesday night. Milford hosts Seaford today at 6:30 p.m.

“In our next game, we knew we had to keep our momentum going,” said French. “And we did that against Poly.

“We still hold everything in our hands (in the North). There could be a tie-breaker involved but it’s still kind of in our hands. It can’t really be taken away from us unless we give it away.”

After playing at South power Indian River on Saturday at 2:45 p.m., Milford still has big North matchups left with Cape Henlopen, Dover and Sussex Central.

Among the big group of seniors, Luke Bogan, Sammy Dominguez and Manny Carranza are the Bucs’ team captains. On last year’s all-Henlopen North team, Bogan and Dominguez made first team, Aaron Sollie made second team and Carranza made honorable mention.

Bogan also was named second-team All-State.

“The strength of our team is just the overall balance,” said French. “We have talent at every position.”

French said many of the players on this year’s squad have grown up together. Trying to accomplish some big things in their last season together is important to them.

Starting off with the possibility of not even having a season this fall has made them appreciate their success so far.

“It’s a very close-knit group of guys since they were young,” said French. “They didn’t care how many games they were going to be given with the shortened season. They didn’t care that we have to wear masks.

“This whole year, they just wanted to have a season. They’ve done whatever they’ve been told to do to have it accomplished.”