Panthers win second straight, rally to top Milford 16-7

Polytech’s Douglas Reed looks for running room on a kickoff return in game Friday night against Milford.. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

WOODSIDE — As Polytech High lined up in punt formation, D.J. Rawley ran by punter Tucker Reed to take his position.

When Rawley passed him, Reed gave him a slight nod.

That nod set in motion a second half where the Panthers used their special teams and defense to pull off a victory.

A fake punt, two kickoff recoveries and a last-minute field goal helped Polytech edge Milford High 16-7 on Friday night. Polytech improved to 2-1 and has won back-to-back games for the first time since September 2013.

Milford dropped its second contest in a row to fall to 1-2.

Polytech’s Keshon Weems stops Milford quarterback Tayone Matthews for a loss late in the second quarter Friday night. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Polytech rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the third quarter sparked by a 38-yard pass on a fake punt from Reed to Rawley. Panther coach Kevin Smith had alerted Reed the pass play would likely be open because of how Milford was lining up.

Reed, a senior, saw this and silently told Rawley, a sophomore, the play was on.

“He was one of the first freshmen that we bonded with last year,” Reed said. “We took in freshmen like a family because we wanted to let them know they are important to the team. So we’ve bonded the last two years and when I nodded he knew what the playcall would be.”

Milford quarterback Tayone Matthews looses control of the ball on a pass play but managed to recover before being tackled by Keshon Weems (21) of Polytech. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Reed had to stay in the pocket for a long time and was knocked so hard to the ground his helmet flew off.

“I didn’t see if I threw it in a good place or not,” Reed said. “But I heard the crowd cheering. That was good enough for me.”

“They were coming really hard off that edge,” Smith said. “So I said if it looks like they’re coming again we’ll make that call. Tucker threw a nice ball and D.J. caught it. That was what really got the momentum going.”

That kept alive a 13-play drive which was capped off by Chris Gordon’s rushing touchdown from two yards out. The Panthers entered the red zone when junior quarterback Vincent Tascione lobbed a 27-yard pass to Doug Reed at the two-yard line.

Special teams then lifted the Panthers again when Tucker Reed bounced the ensuing kickoff off a Milford’s player’s leg. The ball deflected right to Polytech’s Tanner Elliott who pounced on it.

Polytech eventually moved into the red zone and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 12-yard run by Montrell Jones to take a 13-7 advantage with 8:01 left in the game.

The Panthers forced a punt on Milford’s next possession and soon found themselves facing a fourth down on Milford’s 15 with 2:10 remaining. Smith called timeout to debate whether to go for it or attempt a 32-yard field goal.

He asked his players and the choice was unanimous — send out kicker Caleb Tascione. Tascione repaid his teammates’ faith by sending the ball through the uprights to seal the win.
“His teammates said, “Kick it coach,” Smith said. “So I said O.K. They said they had his back, make or miss. So we went for a field goal and he nailed it.”

David Bowman of Milford is brought down by a Panther defender in the first half of game Friday night. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

The kick was the longest Tascione has ever made during a game. He said the furthest he has hit is a 40-yarder in practice.

The field goal also made up for Tascione pushing his second extra point attempt wide right. He said on that miss he connected with the ball too far back on his foot so he adjusted his kicking position for the field goal.

“I felt good from the start cause I knew I had my brother (Vincent) holding it for me,” Tascione said. “We practice a lot on and off the field. I knew he had my back and I knew I could depend on the line not letting their blockers get through.”

Tucker Reed even helped out Polytech on special teams just by getting hit. Both of the Panthers’ last two scoring drives were kept alive by roughing the punter penalties, one of which led to a Milford ejection.

The two penalties combined with the hit he took on the fake punt had Reed spending some time on the trainer table in the second half.

“I feel a little beat up but I had to suck it up and help my teammates out,” Reed said. “If I’m acting soft then they’ll feel sorry for me instead of focusing on the game.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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