Friday night, Milford and Lake Forest will clash in their annual matchup known as the “Battle of the Bell.” Kickoff at Lake Forest is at 7 p.m.

While the prestige of winning the Bell is on the line, slim playoff hopes for both the Buccaneers and Spartans will also be up for grabs.

Both squads have had their ups and downs.

Just a season removed from reaching the Division II DIAA Football championship game, the Buccaneers are one of the teams vying for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bucs had high hopes they could duplicate what they accomplished last year, looking to ride the momentum created by a strong defense to give an explosive offense shots at putting points on the board.

“We will be relying on our defense to keep us in tough ball games against strong offenses,” said Milford head coach Shaun Strickland earlier in the season. “I’m confident they’re up to the task.” Their defense has helped and hurt as they struggled against the Henlopen South’s top teams.

While they struggled against Woodbridge and Delmar, Milford’s defense gave up just 20 points combined in five victories.

The Buccaneers fought through early struggles after starting the season 0-2. Milford went on to win five of their next six games.

Lake Forest has been unable to find consistency. Through their first eight games, the Spartans only won back to back games twice and like the Bucs, struggled against the top teams in the Henlopen South, falling to both Delmar and Woodbridge.

The Spartans couldn’t post good results against their top DII opponents, falling to A.I. duPont and Wilmington Friends, teams which are a combined 14-1 on the season.

Lake’s defense has been impressive in their victories, keeping opponents to 14 points or less in three of the four.

“The defense has improved compared to last year, we have more team speed,” said Lake Forest head coach Fred Johnson.

At the end of the day, defense will probably make the difference when Lake Forest and Milford battle for the Bell. The Buccaneers are looking to keep the Bell for the third straight year.