By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MILTON — Even before his Black Panthers were scheduled to take on Shamokin at home in Saturday night’s Homecoming game, Milton coach George Goodwin was telling people that Shamokin is going to become a good team, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Goodwin has not changed his mind and, if he is proven correct, he hopes it will be sometime after this weekend.
“They are kind of suffering through the same things I did the first year at Milton,” Goodwin said, “trying to get kids in the right positions.
“Once they put it all together, they are going to be a scary football team. Hopefully that’s not this week, but down the road,” Goodwin said.
The winless Indians come into the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I clash at 0-5 overall, 0-3 HAC-I and face a Black Panthers team that is 2-3, 0-2, and coming off back-to-back wins.
Last week’s game, however, was a huge mismatch as the Black Panthers visited under-manned Carson Long Military Institute.
Goodwin said his players knew what kind of team they were facing and now he needs to get them as mentally ready as possible to play a team that, despite its record, is much better than last week’s opponent.
He has also reminded his players that the Black Panthers were in the same situation two years ago, and Milton beat Shamokin to start a five-game winning streak and qualify for the District 4 Class AAA playoffs.
“I think we are going to be able to strap it on and go out and play and that the kids are going to be mentally ready for the challenge Shamokin gives us,” Goodwin said.
He said that last week the Indians used both Tucker Yost (who started the season at quarterback) and Sean McLaughlin under center, so the Black Panthers are preparing for both.
He added that McLaughlin was the leading receiver coming into the game and the Indians want to get the ball into his hands.
“And Yost is Yost, it is a two-headed quarterback system, I guess.”
He said that, defensively, the Indians fly to the ball and are well-coached on both sides of the ball.
“They are a good football team and I definitely think we are going to have our hands full. We have to do something they haven’t seen when we get the ball in our hands. And we have to fly around and try to present some match-up problems for them.”
Under first-year coach Yaacov Yisrael, Shamokin has run a veer option, split backs and, last week, even a pistol set,
“If they were willing to change last week, I don’t know what to expect this week. They could come out in a completely different set,” Goodwin said. “We have to play sound fundamental football to defend the options, and that’s one of our biggest concerns.”
Yisrael, the former standout Penn State defensive back, said there was considerable improvement, especially on offense, last week. He compiles a list of mistakes, after viewing the film, from every game. He said the list from the Lewisburg game was the shortest yet. He also said the Indians had more first downs (about 12) in the first half than they did in the previous two games versus Danville and Selinsgrove.
“We are improving,” he said.
Milton, he said, being a veteran team, is probably not going to make a lot of mistakes, but he also said the Black Panthers will not believe that Shamokin can win, and “I think they are going to try to push us around.”
He said a big key for his team would be to score first. “We have not had a lead all season and that’s another thing we are battling. I think (with a lead) our world would change,” Yisrael said.