This time a year ago, the Milford Buccaneers were preparing for their first season under Head Coach Shaun Strickland. Fresh off a disappointing 1-9 campaign, the Bucs were in rebuild mode, searching for a new identity.

While few envisioned it, the Buccaneers finished 2015 as one of the breakout teams within the Henlopen South Division, ending the year having improved their win total by five at 6-4.

Milford narrowly missed the playoffs, but in year two under Coach Strickland the new direction for the Buccaneer’s program is likely to keep rolling.

Even with the jump the program made last season, Strickland and the team understand that building a team capable of contending each year will still take time. And like every other team, they must adjust each year to the challenges that arise.

With some stiff Division II competition, plenty of which resides within the Henlopen South, Strickland and his staff are stressing one message in particular this season, finishing on every play. Performing in every practice and game with that mentality is a simple, yet often overlooked, element when it comes to the game of football. For Strickland and Milford, it’s an important practice which can help younger players develop good habits, while also creating leaders within the locker room.

“After graduating 20 seniors, we must have new leaders establish themselves and we as a team need to finish,” Strickland said. “Our discipline and leadership must take another step up from where we were last year and that is including some young guys getting thrown into the mix, as we preach, it’s never too late to be a leader.”

Losing experienced senior players is a problem all teams must face. Though, Strickland believes the players who’ve moved on have left a lasting impression on the returning players who will take the field Friday night at Red Lion.

“We lost very important pieces and it’s hard to replace a Shawn Snowden, Tyler Norwood, Jose Ortiz, Son Martinez, or a Michael Holstein,” said Strickland. “But, we’re lucky to have some young pieces back.”

William Kimmel, DJ Bowman, Dominyc Hovington, Rashawn Price, Brion Murray, Marcus Correa, Ryan Jones, Greg Clark, Thomas Eisenbrey are just a few of the team’s returning players who will be leaned on heavily this season.

Bowman, Hovington and Price will make up a well-rounded backfield as well as manning the secondary for the Bucs, while Kimmel will be under center protected by Jones, Clark and Eisenbrey playing both lines along with newcomers Garon Little and Nick Carlino.

With last year now in the rear-view, the Bucs must look ahead to their season opener Friday night against Red Lion, a team they defeated in last year’s opener, 67-0.

Milford’s hopes are high, however, they’re taking a one game at a time approach to the program’s rise and the work isn’t finished yet.

“Last year was a great turnaround for Milford Football,” Strickland said. “However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have plenty of work to do to get to where we would like to be.”