By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MILTON — Milton fans have been hoping to see their football program get back to its glory days, something for which fourth-year coach George Goodwin is striving.
If Danville coach Jim Keiser, who has led a recent resurgence by the Ironmen, is right, that time for Milton may be now.
“I saw them in person and on film and from what I saw, they have a really good team,” Keiser said.
He said the Black Panthers, who host the Ironmen Friday night in the season and Heartland Athletic Conference Division I opener, are doing a nice job running Goodwin’s system and, in addition, “They have size and they come off the ball well.”
Keiser added that, along with fourth-year starting quarterback Brady Chappell and halfback Jayson English, the Black Panthers have a lot of good skill people.
“They present a lot of challenges,” he said.
The Ironmen are the pick by many Valley coaches as the team to beat in the HAC-I and a top challenger again in District 4 Class AA.
Said Goodwin, “This team is picked to contend and if we want to be in that hunt, we have to get out of the gate quickly.”
Danville returns senior quarterback Weston Baylor and his backfield mates, senior fullback Sam Dressler and senior halfback Isaiah Croll. Senior Zach Kozick, injured in the preseason and a game-time decision this week, returns at wide receiver.
In addition, the Black Panthers will face a returning linebacker corps that was arguably one of the Valley’s best a year ago with Isaac Troutman and Caleb Klein on the outside and Tom Brouse, Eric Haney and Croll inside.
Both teams have plenty of veterans. Goodwin said he hopes his veterans can play up to the level of Danville’s.
“We know who they’re going to get the ball to, they are looking to get it to Dressler and Baylor is going to put it up,” Goodwin said.
“We have to stop their big guns, Dressler, Croll, Kozick and Baylor and, offensively we need to control the line of scrimmage.
“We are senior-laden and we have some guys up front we think we can run behind. We were able to do that in our scrimmages and we have to continue to be able to do it in week one,” he said.
“And we have to keep Brady Chappell upright,” he added.
Milton, which saw its own fine linebacking group lost to graduation, has switched to a 5-2 defense and Keiser said it is one of the most difficult defenses he has seen.
“I just think they are very good at what they do. They have nice defensive ends (seniors Clayton Messinger and Chris Reuss) and they are physical in the middle (with linebackers Josh Brown, also the fullback this year, and Justin Shipe.
Most coaches worry about mistakes in opening games and Keiser is no exception.
Keiser said that was his biggest concern. He said his running backs did a nice job of taking care of the ball last year, “but we still had penalties.”
“The team that makes the fewest mistakes will be the successful team,” Keiser said.