Two-way Bucs Gillis, Luke gear up for season

Marquis Gillis, left, and Jabraih Luke attend Thursday morning’s high school football Media Day at Dover High. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

DOVER — Marquis Gillis is entering his third season as a starter for the Milford High football team.

This fall, however, will mark his first season at running back and safety.

The rising junior has spent the previous two seasons at wide receiver and cornerback, but coach Shaun Strickland and the Bucs’ coaching staff are looking to utilize him in different ways.

“As he’s grown and gotten bigger, his ball instincts are still there as a corner, but his ability to come up and hit and those things are going to be great for us to have in the secondary,” said Strickland at Thursday morning’s Delaware high school football Media Day at Dover High.

“Being a junior, weighing in at almost 200 pounds and running a 4.5 40-yard dash, you’re going to get that look — especially if he grows between now and his senior year. There’s nothing saying he can’t be a 210-, 215-pound safety by the time next season rolls around.”

The goal of the switch to running back is simple: get Gillis the ball more often.

“We let him know, offensively, ‘we want to get you the ball,’” Strickland added. “He’s gotten himself in phenomenal shape, he ran a fantastic 40 time. He’s going to be a kid who gets the ball a lot.”

Jabraih Luke runs the ball during a 38-0 shutout win over Cape Henlopen High last October. Luke will see a larger role at running back this fall.

While changing not one, but two, positions in the same year can be a lot to ask of a young player, Strickland says Gillis has taken it in stride and has even embraced the double switch.

“I’d do anything for the team,” Gillis said of his initial reaction. “We’ve been working hard this summer, so we just have to put it out on the field and see what happens.”

Gillis and the rest of the Bucs will hit the field to test out his new role when Delaware’s high school fall sports practices officially get underway on Monday.

Following a trio of scrimmages over the next three weeks, the Bucs will open the regular season at Indian River High Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. Milford’s home opener is 7 p.m. Sept. 13 against Delaware Military Academy.

With the graduation of last year’s No. 1 running back Rahshawn Price, incoming senior Jabraih Luke is ready to take on a larger role coming out of the backfield. He’ll also be an impact player alongside Gillis in the secondary.

“Jabraih will be that guy (this year),” said Strickland. “He was that guy last year, between he and Price. Jabraih runs a little better between the tackles, Price was a guy on the edge. It’s going to be fun watching him get more touches between the tackles this year.”

Last year’s now-graduated backfield group of Price, Rodney Robinson, Kadin Bates and Caleb Watson left a void that Milford hopes it can fill with a larger role from Luke and the recently-converted Gillis.

“I’m real excited,” said Strickland. “They both bring different aspects to the game, so it’s going to be fun to watch those guys run and I think they’re going to complement each other well.”

Over the summer, Gillis and Luke have worked out individually, held group workouts with teammates and competed in 7-on-7 games to improve both on-field production and team chemistry.

“I just want us to win,” said Luke. “I work every day. I go to the weight room, I go to Planet Fitness, we do drills. We’re out there, we’re working. Working with the team and working separately, I do both.”

“Both of those guys are projected to be captains this year,” Strickland said of the duo. “Those two have definitely earned and worked for everything they’ve got so far.”

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