Milford captures program’s first South lacrosse crown

LEWES – Clay Stevenson made it look easy.

Perhaps because to him is was routine.

To the rest of the people at Cape Henlopen High’s Legends Stadium who watched the Milford goalie save an open shot from Delmar’s Nathaniel Vincent with one minute to play in a rubber match between the teams to decide the Henlopen South, it was spectacular.

Milford celebrates its first South lax championship. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Milford celebrates its first South lax championship. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

With his team trailing by a pair of scores, Vincent darted his way from near the left sideline toward the cage and fired his shot from about 10 yards out. Stevenson, however, watched it safely into his crosse’s head to preserve a 7-5 lead Milford carried through the final horn.

The victory earned the Buccaneers (15-1) their program’s first ever South championship and the right to play North winner Cape Henlopen Friday night at Milford High. Milford and Delmar had handed each other their only conference losses during the regular season, with the Buccaneers winning 6-5 on the road and the Wildcats returning the favor 8-7 last week and forcing Wednesday’s tiebreaking game.

“I’ve been going through it for six years, so I don’t even think about it anymore,” said Stevenson, a junior. “It’s a common save for me, one I have to make.”

Milford, which never trailed in the game, got a pair of unanswered goals from senior Matt Viramontes that proved to be the difference makers.

Delmar’s Alex Rosenthal tied the score 5-5 midway through the third quarter and it looked as if would remain knotted heading into the fourth, but Viramontes had other plans.

Seven seconds before the third period ended, the senior split a pair of defenders on the right side of the net and fired the eventual game-winning goal. Halfway through the fourth he gave the Bucs some insurance with his hat-trick score.

“Usually I can take my man one-on-one, but with the zone (defense deployed by Delmar) I have to work with my teammates and look for the open look,” Viramontes said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the opportunity for the one-on-ones, so what I had is what I took.”

The senior also credited Milford’s defense for the offense’s success.

“They really help us on the fastbreaks,” Viramontes said of the defense. “If it weren’t for them, we don’t know where we would be. I’m so thankful to have the team and defense we have. We work so good as a unit.”

Zach Heesh gave Milford a quick 1-0 lead with the senior’s first of two goals, but Delmar answered five minutes into the opening quarter with a score by junior Andrew Blewitt.

Goals by sophomore Dallas Rhodes and Heesh made it 3-1 for the Buccaneers shortly thereafter, but Rosenthal found the net with a minute to play in the first to cut the advantage to one. Viramontes’ 15-yarder with 0.9 seconds remaining in the quarter was true and Milford again went up by two.

As would be expected by anyone who had witnessed the teams’ previous two back-and-forth meetings, Delmar’s deficit didn’t last long.

Milford's 2015 Henlopen South champion boys' lacrosse team. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Milford’s 2015 Henlopen South champion boys’ lacrosse team. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Following a goal by junior Chance Watts two minutes into the second quarter, the Wildcats tied the game 4-4 with 5 minutes left in the half thanks to a score by Vincent. Milford, though, was able to take a 5-4 lead into halftime after senior Ring Lardner scored with 56 seconds to play off a Rhodes’ assist.

“Every single time we play them it’s a tough game,” Milford head coach Blake Faulkner said. “They come out ready to go. They’re like our other half in some shape or form and that’s good for the conference. But we did what we were supposed to do. We had an extra game because we didn’t take care of things the last time, so we knew we had to come back and play to get back to where we needed to be.”

Competition will only get better from here for Milford, which now must turn its attention to Friday’s game with powerhouse Cape Henlopen and then the state tournament.

Faulkner, though, said his team is excited to face the awaiting challenges.

“Nobody expects us to be here, and I like that,” he said. “Cape is the standard for lacrosse in the state, and if you’re going into the state tournament it’s good to have to go through a team like that. Both teams, with tonight’s game and Friday’s, give us a good idea of what we’re going to have to deal with going forward.”

Editor’s note: Although it won’t show up in the box score, a lot of Milford’s success versus Delmar was due to the play of senior Dylan Schleigh, which didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.

When Delmar defeated Milford during the regular season, the Buccaneers struggled with faceoffs. Wednesday night, however, Schleigh won possession for Milford multiple times.

“It’s very hard and rare to find a faceoff guy that dominant that gives you possession after possession after possession and chance after chance after chance,” Faulkner said. “He does so much for us that I don’t think I can thank him enough. It’s a blessing for us going forward.”

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.