LAUREL — After his team’s mistakes helped Laurel stay within two points of the lead at halftime, Milford football coach Shaun Strickland didn’t have to say much to his Buccaneers.
“Don’t be afraid to be great,” Strickland said he told the Bucs, who went into the break Friday night leading the Bulldogs 16-14.
The Buccaneers responded and looked anything but scared of greatness during a second half in which they scored 36 unanswered points, leading to a 52-14 victory that moved Milford to 2-1 in the South and 5-2 overall.
Coupled with Indian River’s loss to Woodbridge the same night, the win put Milford in a second place tie with the Indians and Blue Raiders in the Southern Division loss column. Those three teams are all trying to run down Lake Forest, which has yet to lose in the South. Milford hosts Woodbridge next Friday.
“We got another division win, now we just have to run the rest of the South so we have a shot to win (the division),” said sophomore David Bowman, who rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Laurel. “It feels good.”
After keeping the Bulldogs (1-3 South, 2-5 overall), who had driven down to the Milford six-yard line, off the board on their final drive of the opening half, the Buccaneers received the ball to begin the third quarter and engineered a nine-play scoring drive.
Junior Dominyc Hovington capped the 61-yard march with a 13-yard TD run, his second of the evening.
“It’s exciting, I can’t explain it, just the heat of the moment,” Hovington said of running between the tackles. “You have fast David Bowman out there breaking tackles and running for 80 yards and then give it to me and I try to play hard football. My teammates are giving their all and I want to give mine too.”
Leading 24-14 following Hovington’s touchdown run and a two-point conversion, the Bucs’ defense stepped up after allowing the Bulldogs to reach their 36. With Laurel looking to convert a third-and-12, sophomore Tyreke Benson picked off a Perez Nichols pass at his own five.
Unlike the last time Milford’s offense had its back to the goal line – a first half series that wound up with the Bulldogs taking over at the eight and scoring a play later – the Bucs marched 95 yards to put the game away. Junior Marcus Correa finished the drive when he hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline from quarterback William Kimmel.
Kimmel and Correa had been switching series behind center at the time.
“You have to catch that pass,” said Correa, whose TD helped Milford take a 32-14 lead with three to play in the third. “Can’t drop those.”
Freshman Rahshawn Price broke off touchdown runs of 80 and 61 yards in the fourth quarter and Bowman added a 36-yard score to help put Laurel away for good.
Now Milford, which is still very much alive in the South race and a possible Division II playoff team despite last week’s loss to Indian River, must get ready for Woodbridge. Of the Blue Raiders, Strickland said he didn’t know much yet.
“All I know is they just beat Indian River,” he said. “Everyone in the South is a great team. We just beat a great Laurel team and we’ve got to stay focused and dialed in.”