Milford Mill has returned to the Class 1A state playoffs one year after its first losing season since 1982, and first-year coach Bob Greene is overflowing with confidence.
"I think we can win it all," Greene said. "We're on a train with a ticket to College Park [site of the state final]. Everybody we go against is on the track, and we have to knock them off. We don't want to get off until we get to College Park."
The first stop on the Millers' title trek is Perryville (8-2), which will play host to Milford Mill (7-3) in a quarterfinal tomorrow at 1.
If Milford Mill, the area's winningest team in the 1980s under John Buchheister and state champion in 1987, defeats Perryville, the Millers probably would play defending Class 2A state champion Wilde Lake, which moved down to 1A this year, in a semifinal.
How does Greene think his team would fare against the second-ranked Wildecats (10-0), who have won 23 straight, the area's longest winning streak?
"I have no doubt we can beat Wilde Lake," Greene said. "If we're lucky enough to play them, we'll beat them. Speed-wise and skill-wise, we match up. They've got some big boys, but they're not aggressive.
"Some might say I'm cocky, but I'm just confident. I teach my team to be a reflection of the coach. I'm not a quitter. There's no mountain high enough that I can't get over."
Greene's players apparently have responded to his motivational approach to coaching.
"He's made a big difference," said senior quarterback Jerome Dennis. "Coach Greene is very enthusiastic. He's very positive, and he gets us pumped up."
Perhaps Greene is able to motivate his players because he won't ask them to do anything he isn't prepared to do. For instance, when a player makes a mistake or misbehaves in practice, Greene has him do 25 push-ups. When Greene makes a mistake, he said, he doesn't hesitate to drop down and do 25.
"If he can sacrifice his body, we feel like we should, too," Dennis said.
Greene's presence did not mean immediate success for the Millers, however. Greene brought the run-and-shoot offense to Milford Mill, but all it produced after four games was a 1-3 record and an average of four interceptions per game.
Greene said his players began to doubt themselves, but he never abandoned the run-and-shoot.
The confidence paid off.
Milford Mill has won six straight, led by Dennis (72-for-137, 1,521 yards, 15 touchdowns) and receivers Donald Covington (37 catches for 680 yards, six touchdowns) and Dennis Badham (24 catches for 312 yards, seven touchdowns).
"A few of the players thought maybe we should run the ball, but I knew what our guys were capable of," Greene said. "I told them to just grasp what I'm trying to teach. And they did."
During the winning streak, Milford Mill's defense -- led by linebackers Covington, Brian Campbell and Chris Barnes and safety Dennis -- has allowed just 35 points and has three shutouts.
However, except for a 34-17 win over then-unbeaten Chesapeake of Baltimore County on Oct. 11, the Millers have not defeated a team with a winning record.
"I've thought about that," Greene said. "When we went up against Chesapeake, we executed so sharply, we could have beaten any team.
"But I think we'll shock a lot of people. We've got something else in our hope chest that we haven't shown yet."