By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
It’s been several years since a Milton-Selinsgrove game held so many implications in the District 4 Class AAA and Heartland Athletic Conference Division I race.
However on Friday night at Alumni Field, both the Black Panthers and the Seals have a chance to keep themselves in the running for the HAC-I title and grab the top seed in the playoffs with a victory.
For the Black Panthers (4-2 overall, 2-1 HAC-I), Friday night’s contest with Selinsgrove comes in the middle of a tough stretch of games. Milton downed Shamokin in a rematch of last year’s district title game a week ago and then faces Class AA contender Montoursville next week.
“We knew we had to go into Shamokin’s house and get that win last week with our tough stretch coming up (the Black Panthers also finish the season with Shikellamy),” Milton coach George Goodwin said. “It’s a real tough stretch of games, but we still essentially control our own destiny.”
Milton currently sits second in the district standings with 350 points, 120 points behind Selinsgrove for the top seed. The HAC-I race is a bit more complicated. For the Black Panthers to have a shot at the league title, they will have to beat Selinsgrove and hope the Seals then beat Danville, which beat Milton in the opener, in the final week of the season.
Milton’s biggest concern heading into the contest is handling the Seals’ 3-5 defense.
“We know they are going to do a lot of stemming in their defensive line and we also know we are going to have a couple plays stuffed at the line just because of the way they play defense,” Goodwin said. “We just have to stay true to our game plan and not get frustrated (if we get stuffed a few times) early.”
One advantage for the Black Panthers against the Selinsgrove defense comes with junior quarterback Brady Chappell. Chappell, in his third year as the starter, is entering his third start of his career against the aggressive Seals.
“We’ve tried to simulate them as much as possible in the practice, but it’s hard to get a true look in practice,” Goodwin said.
It’s been a tough two weeks for Selinsgrove (4-2, 3-0), which has dropped games to perennial state powers Berwick and Southern Columbia the past two contests.
One plus from last week’s loss to the Tigers is the emergence of freshman Juvon Batts as an offensive threat and in special teams. Batts set up three scores by the Seals in the first half last week with long kickoff returns.
“You go back to last year’s films and look at their offense and their offense this season, and they really have the ball rolling right now,” Goodwin said. “We really are going to have to account for the Batts kid on offense and in the return game.”
The Seals also have to bounce back defensively after allowing 50 points to the Tigers last week. Selinsgrove entered the game having allowed 51 points in its first five games.
Selinsgrove has relied on its running game all season on the offensive side of the ball. Four different running backs have at least 100 yards on the ground. The Seals made a switch under center last week, going with sophomore Isaiah Rapp. Rapp was 9-of-17 for 88 yards against the Tigers.