The Milford Buccaneers managed to double their win total from last season with a 1-point victory over the reigning Division II state champion Indian River Indians on Friday night.
The Bucs are now 2-0 at home and on the season, having defeated the Concord Raiders by 2 points at Briggs Stadium on Sept. 7.
"We wanted to bond as a team and become as close as we can, and so far, with the first two week, we've done that," first-year head coach Mike Tkach said after Friday's victory. "We were down in both games, but we had hard intensity and never quit. I'm just so proud of the kids and their work ethic."
Milford's defense came on strong early in Friday's game, recovering a fumble and grabbing an interception in the first quarter. The offense, however, was unable to capitalize on those turnovers, including a missed field goal on the first scoring attempt of the game.
At the end of the first quarter, Indian River was looking at a first-and-goal, yet the Bucs defense managed to hold them to a field goal at the start of the second quarter.
Indians' wide receiver Marquel Knight later scored the first touchdown of the game off a 24-yard run with 8:40 left in the half. However, Milford junior DB Vance Daniels blocked the extra point attempt, holding Indian River to a 9-0 advantage.
Milford got its first points when senior quarterback Nicholas Jefferson punched the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard run that followed a 20-yard carry by junior Octavion Wilson, a 13-yard run by Daniels with a 28-yard pass caught just short of the goal line by senior Nathan Poore.
Holding a 9-7 advantage coming out of the half, Indian River scored on its first third-quarter drive on a 21-year touchdown run by senior halfback Jalen Griffin. Yet the Indians again failed to make the extra point, this time due to a botched snap, leaving the score 15-7.
Milford answered back on the ensuing possession, which began with a 60-yard kick return by Wilson and was followed by a 25-yard touchdown run by Daniels. Wilson then tied the game on a 2-point conversion with 9:23 left in the third quarter.
"I think the biggest moment of the game was coming out and responding to the touchdown in the second half," Jefferson said later. "It got the momentum shifted back to us and gave our team more confidence to go down and score again and again."
Yet it was Indian River that scored next off a 65-yard run by Knight that gave the Indians a 22-15 lead and uncorked a frenetic scoring pace that last for the rest of the game.
Following another three-and-out by Milford, the Bucs defense came up big when a tackle by Wilson on third-and-one forced the Indians to kick.
Page 2 of 2 - The ensuing punt was blocked by junior lineman Andrew Marshall, which led to a 5-yard touchdown run by Wilson that tied the game at 22-22 with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
After taking over on downs at their own 36 yard line, Milford marched down the field, thanks in part to a pass interference call against Indian River, culminating in a 5-yard QB sneak by Jefferson that gave Milford its first lead, 29-22, just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
Indian River tied the game at 29-29 on its next possession with a 4-yard scamper by Griffin.
Milford answered back on a 21-yard touchdown run by junior running back Geophte Augustin with 7:45 left in the fourth.
The Indians responded with another touchdown off of a 61-yard run by Griffin.
Senior lineman Zachary Rickards might have been the hero of the game when he recorded the Bucs' second extra-point block of the game, which gave Milford the 1-point advantage it held until the final whistle.
The defense sealed the win with sophomore linebacker Benjamin Mitzel sacking the Indians quarterback for a 19-yard loss following a botched snap and Wilson knocking down a desperation heave to the 1-yard line in the waning moments.
"It was one of the best high school football games that I've had the pleasure of being involved in," Tkach said afterward. "I'm just proud of our kids."
Jefferson said the Bucs' sense of camaraderie has been the driving force that has enabled them to squeak out back-to-back, come-from-behind wins over formidable opponents to start the 2012-2013 season.
"Our team is a huge family," the senior said. "We're a tight-knit group and we all have each other's backs. When one person goes down, there is another person to pick them up. We're just all pulling for each other."
The Bucs will face their first road test of the season when they head to Georgetown to face Sussex Tech (1-1) on Sept. 21.