MILFORD – A decade after capturing the lone football state championship in Milford High’s history, the 12th Man Gridiron Club inducted the team into its football Hall of Fame Friday, Sept. 7 at Briggs Stadium.
Earlier that afternoon, a group of players and coaches from that ’08 state title team gathered inside the Milford High School cafeteria for a reunion banquet and would later re-gather for the official halftime induction at Milford’s 2018 season-opener against Sussex Tech.
“It was a special group of kids, so it all started with those guys,” said coach Chris Johnson, who spent 16 years as Milford’s defensive coordinator. “You could kind of see the work ethic in the offseason that was coming from the year before and it just kind of spilled over into the 2008 season.”
During the 2008 title run, head coach Mike Tkach and his Bucs squad posted an 8-2 regular season record on their way to grabbing the top seed in the Division II state tournament bracket.
The team’s only two losses came against Cape Henlopen, 26-18 in Week 3, and Delmar, 37-15 in Week 8.
Milford capped the regular season by defeating rival Lake Forest, 27-14, in the annual Battle of the Bell showdown in Felton.
Following a first-round bye, the Bucs defeated Wilmington Friends 45-14 in the semifinal round of the state playoffs.
The Bucs recorded 523 rushing yards – and one passing yard – in the semifinal beatdown in the blistering snowy conditions.
“One of my fondest memories of that season is definitely our playoff game in the snow,” Ryan Deeney, a two-way starter at center and strongside linebacker that season, said in an interview at Friday’s banquet.
“I think everybody was a little nervous at the start of it, but when we came out after warm-ups and it was blizzard-like conditions it was kind of a relief because we used to always get together and play football whenever it snowed anyways. So, it was just another game of backyard football to us.”
Milford would move on to shut out the Laurel Bulldogs, 20-0, in the championship game at Delaware State University the following week.
“I just remember looking up into the stands the year we won,” said Chris Drummond, one of the ’08 team captains. “For a small community that in the past had a poor football record, it was great to bring so much joy to the town. It’s great to kind of reunite that today.”
Drummond, who was a two-way starter at fullback and on the defensive line, was a co-captain along with Alex Bell, Jason Kollock and Devin Sivels.
Bell was inducted into the 12th Man Gridiron Hall of Fame as an individual player last year, and Kollock held the school’s all-time tackles record before it was finally broken last season.
“J-Bird was a kid you could count on,” Dr. David Carter, who served primarily as the defensive line coach of the ’08 team, said of Kollock. “You could count on him to make a tackle, you could count on him to make a block – you could even put him at running back. He was Mr. Versatility, but he at middle linebacker was the mainstay.”
In addition to serving as the defensive line coach, Dr. Carter was also the strength and conditioning coach, special teams coach and disciplinarian for the Bucs title team. He did a little bit of everything on Mike Tkach’s coaching staff.
While Kollock held the tackles record, ’08 Milford running back Brandon Legrand held the record for most touchdowns in school history before that record, too, was broken last season.
The team finished the season with a pair of shutouts (including the state title game) and out-scored opponents 320-167 in 12 games.
The offense, led by starting quarterback Marcus Jones, averaged 26.6 points per game, scoring fewer than 20 points in a game only twice all season.
“I think just the hard work and the dedication to making something of themselves is what I remember most of this team,” Dr. Carter said.
“A lot of times I would tell people that we came to teach these boys how to be young men and in the process they learned the game of football. These were just young men, who if you look at them now, a lot of them have gone on to do bigger and better things and that’s something we really wanted to bestow upon them.”
With coach Tkach unable to attend the banquet and ceremony, his daughter Maggie Tkach was in attendance to represent him.
Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.