By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — One of the Valley’s older rivalries takes on a more serious tone Friday night when Milton visits Selinsgrove for its Homecoming in what is a critical game in terms of the District 4 Class AAA points race.
The Black Panthers come into this Heartland Athletic Conference Division I contest as the D4 AAA points leader, by 50 points over the Seals.
“This (game) is very important,” Milton coach George Goodwin said. “It doesn’t get much bigger than this, other than a district championship game, which we participated in with Selinsgrove last year.”
“It’s a huge game. Our kids know that and our coaching staff knows that.”
The Seals (3-3, 2-1 HAC-I) are certainly glad to get back home and play a league game after back-to-back lopsided losses to state powers Berwick (AAA) and Southern Columbia (A).
Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said, “The recovery from (the) Southern (game) is not difficult. That game showed our kids that we have to work hard and we’ve got to be better.”
Like Goodwin, Hess said this is one of the area’s biggest games this week and the Seals face a good team with a lot of veterans, including a fourth-year quarterback in Brady Chappell.
“They have nice athletes in the backfield, not just at running back, and they throw the ball well,” he said. “We’ve gotta hand it to George, he is a great coach with a nice staff and they have really gotten that program where it used to be years ago. We see this as a huge challenge,” he added.
As Hess has said he wants to play teams like Berwick and Southern to get a gauge on his own team, so Goodwin said that is why he is glad the Black Panthers (4-2, 1-2) play the Seals every year.
“We want to play teams like Selinsgrove to gauge where we are in our program, It is a huge game and a fun game and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Goodwin said.
One of those challenges, he said, is facing the Seals’ 3-5 defense. “They move around a lot defensively and they’ve got quality athletes on both sides of he ball. Our main concern is that defense — staying on track and being able to do the things we’ve been doing to this point, run the ball and set up our passing game.”
Goodwin said the Seals always try to take something away. “I hope they don’t take away our run game completely. We hope we can get (halfbacks) Jayson (English), Jovan (Garrison) and (fullback) Josh Brown going at some point in the game.”
Hess, who said that, with just one HAC-I loss, the Seals still have their eyes on their No. 1 goal coming into every season, the division title, added that he is most concerned with stopping Milton’s dangerous offense.
“They can run the ball well but they are also good with their play-action passes and that’s scary.
We have to be careful not to give up the big play because we can lose the game in a hurry if we give up the big play.
He said the game is pivotal to the Seals’ playoff picture and the defense has to play well because “we saw Saturday night they can score points in a hurry when they want to. It was impressive how quickly they put points up.”