Strickland enjoying first year at Milford

MILFORD — Like any head coach, Shaun Strickland is — at least in part — a product of the men he’s played and worked for.Milford Strickland by .

So sure, there are times when the first-year Milford High football coach speaks but it’s like his former coaches are talking.

“There’s been things where it’s just like, ‘I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth but here we are,’” said Strickland.

Whatever the Caesar Rodney High grad is saying and doing, however, it seems to be working.

Strickland and his coaching staff have the Buccaneers at 2-1 in the Henlopen South, 5-2 overall going into today’s big division matchup with Woodbridge (2-1, 4-3). Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. in Milford.

Milford’s five victories match the Bucs’ number of wins for the last three seasons combined. They’re also on the verge of the program’s first winning season since 2009 with a shot at their first state tournament berth since capturing the Division II state title in 2008.

The 32-year-old Strickland said it’s been fun to be a part of it.

“I love it,” the former Lehigh lineman said about being a head coach. “There’s a lot more that goes into it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I got out of college. I studied under a lot of great coaches. It’s a lot of work but the payoff is fantastic.”

Of course the best payoff is seeing the Bucs get a little better each week.

Last Friday, Milford was leading Laurel by just two points at halftime before running away to a 52-14 victory. It was the Bucs’ first win over the Bulldogs since the ‘08 state finals when they blanked Laurel, 20-0.

Milford was 0-2 against the Bulldogs since rejoining the Henlopen South.

Strickland said, early on, the game felt like the week before when the Bucs couldn’t hold onto a lead in a 22-18 loss to Indian River.

“That was a game that, when we were on top and had chances to pull away, they weren’t really sure how to do that,” he said about his players. “We were a little timid. Whereas at Laurel, when it got close, we stepped on the gas and they kept it going.

“Unfortunately we had to learn through that loss. But, in the end, it helped us grow.”

Milford still has its work cut out for it if it wants to make the state tourney.

After tonight, the Bucs have to face Delmar and Battle of the Bell rival Lake Forest, the current Henlopen South frontrunner.

Of course, having learned from the coaches he played and worked for, Strickland isn’t looking any further than Woodbridge.

“We’re just trying to get them back on track,” he said. “As we’ve told them each week, every game’s important. We’re going to go one game at a time and climb that ladder. You’ve got to walk before you can run.

“Every week, we put that game in front of us that is that week. We haven’t overlooked a team all year. At the end of Friday, when that game ends, we take a look and say we’re either one game closer or we just took a step back.”

Eagles still soaring

Smyrna (3-0 Henlopen North, 6-1) brings its high-octane brand of football to Camden tonight for a 7:30 matchup with Caesar Rodney (0-3, 1-6).

The Eagles are trying to win seven games in a season for the first time since 2004, which is also the last time Smyrna made the state tournament.

The Eagles have had a running clock in five of their seven games this year. (A running clock is used when a team has at least a 35-point lead in the second half.)

“Our coaches work their tails off and our kids work their tails off with them,” said second-year coach Mike Judy. “It shows that it can pay off — all the hard work.

“I think the biggest change for our team is the belief. They just believe in each other, they believe in what we’re doing.”

For a team that’s scored at least 40 points in every game, some of Smyrna’s individual stats are remarkable.

Junior quarterback Nolan Henderson has thrown 17 touchdown passes.

Then there’s sophomore running back Will Knight who’s already scored 192 points on 23 TDs and 27 two-point conversions.

Asked if he’s exhausted after games, Knight answered, “Yeah, definitely.”

Extra points

Caesar Rodney will honor its three Division I state championship teams (1975, ‘90 and 2008) at halftime of tonight’s game with Smyrna. … Radio station Delaware 105.9-FM is slated to broadcast tonight’s Milford-Woodbridge game. … Dover goes to Sussex Tech tonight in an interesting Henlopen North matchup. The Senators had won four in a row over the Ravens before falling to Sussex Tech, 35-28, a year ago. … Dover almost pulled off a huge upset before losing to Salesianum, 21-7, last week. Against a team that averages 35 points a game, the Senators led 7-0 at halftime and were tied 7-7 going into the fourth quarter.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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