At 6-0, Milford Mill has hope future will be bright as past

On High Schools

October 21, 2005|By MILTON KENT

No one has to tell the Milford Mill football team how special its football heritage is. Every day, on the way to coach Reggie White's office, the players walk past a trophy case that contains a picture of the 1987 team that ran the table on the way to the state Class C title, as well as the trophy it brought home.

And if that little walk isn't reminder enough, White, a mountain of a man, provides a living symbol of what the Millers have done, as a member of that 13-0 team.

Just to drive home the point, that wearing the Milford Mill jersey is something special, White invited his former coach, John Buchheister, to speak to the team earlier this season. It must have worked. The No. 5 Millers are 6-0 heading into tonight's game at Lansdowne.

"They know," White said. "He [Buchheister] just let them know that it's on; it's a long road. And the way we see it - and we are taking it game-by-game - we have eight games left. Our goal is the state championship. We have eight games - four regular season and four playoff games. It's not even half a season yet. We just have to go."

And "go" is precisely what Milford Mill does. The Millers play the speed game on both sides of the ball. On offense, Milford Mill, which uses a multiple spread offense, has twice run for more than 300 yards in a game this season, with its lowest output, 147 yards, coming in an 18-7 win over Loch Raven.

Running back Rodney Webb has run for 100 yards four times, averaging 6.6 yards a carry with seven touchdowns, and teammate Rashaad Underwood has run for 361 yards on only 26 carries.

Meanwhile, the passing game provides a solid complement. Dual-threat quarterback Robert Jackson has run for 157 yards and three scores, and has thrown for 731 yards and five touchdowns to the speedy receiving pair of Brandon McDonald and Joe Embree, who have combined to catch 24 passes for a combined average of 25.6 yards a catch.

"It's really easy [playing in the offense]," McDonald said. "We run the ball 50 percent and we pass the ball 50 percent. We really spread it around."

And because all but one of the 35 players on the Milford roster play on both sides of the ball, the speed of the offense is matched by the speed of the defense, which has nine interceptions this season.

"A lot of our guys play both ways, and we have a lot of speed getting to the ball, so we do a lot of gang-tackling," said Underwood, who has five interceptions as the team's strong safety.

"We're doing a lot better than we did last year of getting to the ball and tackling. We hit the weight room and everyone was serious about that last summer. We started out in the winter with everyone lifting, so that we make those tackles, instead of making those arm tackles. We hit them."

Milford Mill's start harkens back to the 1980s, when the school led the Baltimore area in wins with 87 during the decade. However, the football program had fallen on hard times before White came over from Woodlawn two years ago.

In the previous four seasons before White returned, the team had four head coaches, and in White's first year, the Millers were 1-9. But with associate head coach and offensive coordinator Gregg Trogdon coming over with White, and defensive coordinator Craig Rollins following a year later, things began to turn around.

Milford Mill went 7-3 last year and made the state playoffs, losing to Randallstown in the 3A North final, the first step toward re-creating something special.

"It [success] was just [a matter of] getting our program in the way we're going to do things," White said. "It's not going to be a fly-by-night organization. This thing is going to be built from the ground up. Once we build it, it's going to keep turning over and turning over."

During the time Milford Mill was down, Hereford rose to take the Millers' place as the dominant program in Baltimore County. The Bulls have won three state titles and gone to nine straight state playoffs, and it is their success that the coaches point to.

"I'll tell you what. We talk about it all the time," said White. "Hereford has three state titles. [Hereford coach Steve] Turnbaugh has three. What can you say? Until you can get there, he is the reigning king of [Class] 2A.

"I have no problem with that. If you're in the ring with the champ, you need to knock him out. If it's close, it's going to go to the champ. I have lots of respect for that. We're trying to work our way up."

Just as with the Hereford program, White, Trogdon and Rollins all teach in the Milford Mill building, so there is continuity, but talking about being like Hereford won't matter unless the Millers can beat the Bulls.

And with both teams now in the 2A North region, Milford Mill may very well have to meet Hereford twice between now and season's end, with one certain meeting coming in two weeks on the road, and a second, possible meeting in the playoffs.

"That's the plan," Trogdon said. "They [the Bulls] are the reigning champs right now. They pretty much run the county. The county bleeds maroon, literally. We're one of two undefeated teams and yet everybody still talks about Hereford. We know that if we want to get respect, we have to go through Hereford. And we don't mind that."

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