Bucs football team expects to retain underdog role in 2018

MILFORD – Even after coming up just seven points shy in last year’s Division II state title game against Delmar, head coach Shaun Strickland believes his Milford High football squad will be seen as underdogs once again in 2018.

That’s okay, though. The Bucs have learned to embrace the underdog role. They seem to thrive on it.

“I’m pretty sure we’re the underdogs week-in and week-out and I love it,” Strickland said following Milford’s scrimmage against Easton (MD) last Wednesday, Aug. 22. “I know the Eagles threw it out there, but I love the whole ‘embrace the target’ mentality. But if people are going to sleep on you, I just want to come out and let them know we’re here every Friday night, win or lose.”

Incoming senior Rahshawn Price runs the ball during Milford’s 14-7 semifinal win over Wilmington Friends last November (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

“It motivates us,” said senior Tyron Mifflin. “It’s been going on for years now and we like that.”

At the quarterback position, the preseason competition has come down to last year’s starter Tayone’ Matthews and incoming freshman Shawn Saxon.

“So far he’s done well,” Strickland said of the freshman quarterback. “He showed us against North Caroline (MD) that he can handle it, we were trying to get him a lot of reps today against Easton just to see what he does when the bullets fly. He doesn’t look bad, we still have Tayone’, we still have other guys so we’re just trying to see what we have.

“At this point, we’re just trying to see what our depth is. We know what Tayone’ can do, we know he’s an athlete, so we’re confident in him no matter where we put him. We have some more guys battling, but I think right now it’s between those two guys, they’re the ones who have really stood out.”

Whoever ends up as the starting quarterback, they’ll have a few weapons in the passing game, including sophomore Marquis Gillis and junior Gaij Copes.

With David Bowman Jr. graduated and gone, incoming senior Rahshawn Price is set to take the bulk of the work load coming out of the Bucs’ backfield this season. He’s excited for the opportunity.

“I’m excited, I know I just need to work hard and take advantage of this opportunity,” said Price. “We lost a lot of talent last year, so we know we need to work hard to get back to the playoffs and win states.”

“He’s the guy, he’s fast and electric, he’s the type who can make that one cut, plant his foot and go. He looks good and we’re excited to have him,” Strickland said of Price.

Seniors Tayone’ Matthews and Tyron Mifflin watch from the sideline during Milford’s scrimmage against Easton (MD) last week (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

Like last year, there’s a lot of depth in the backfield.

Behind Price, guys like seniors Caleb Watson, Dion Warner, Kadin Bates and juniors Mardis Powell and Rodney Robinson could see some playing time out of the backfield. Even Matthews has taken some reps, according to Strickland.

The offensive line is anchored by senior right guard Ritchy Corvil and junior right tackle Zyair Toledo.

Last year’s starting center Thomas Eisenbrey graduated in the spring, leaving a two-man battle between senior Jacob Bryant and sophomore Marco Olivas for the center spot this season.

“Overall, I think our O-line has been improved from last year,” Strickland said. “We have some things we need to work on and tweak, in terms of blitzes and things like that, but I thought we looked pretty good for only a week into camp.”

In addition to anchoring the offensive line, Corvil will also anchor the defensive line this season alongside Anthony Diaz, Eric Bennett and Bevensky Augustin.

“I think our defensive line is crazy,” Corvil said, with a smile. “Just like last year, we aren’t going to let anyone run on us.”

Aside from Bowman, Jordan Waters and Tyreke Benson, much of last year’s stout defensive unit is returning for 2018.

With a strong senior class, Strickland is expecting guys such as Price, Watson and Mifflin to step up and bring the veteran leadership needed heading into the 2018 season.

Team goals

“Of course, winning the title game is everyone’s goal, but I think for us it’s showing we can grow and come together as a team,” Strickland said. “We’re different this year, it’s not the same team, it’s not the same chemistry. So, it’s just about finding our stride and I think once we do we’re going to make some noise.”

“We’re just trying to get better every game,” Corvil simply said.

Milford has one last scrimmage Thursday, Aug. 30 at Glasgow High before opening the regular season schedule at home Friday, Sept. 7 against Sussex Tech.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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