Milton hopes to carry momentum forward
Milton High’s football team saw its recent run of contending for conference championships come to an end in 2016.
But the Red Hawks hope some late-season momentum carries through to the start of 2017.
They finished the season 3-6 but were .500 over their final six games and closed the season with a 21-0 victory over Madison Edgewood.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys back defensively, and we’ve been doing a bunch of team-building and leadership training,” Milton second-year coach Matt Lee said. “The kids have bought in, and I’m pretty excited about how the seniors are taking charge of the team.”
The Red Hawks’ success will likely hinge on their defense. They have seven players returning who started at least one game in their 3-4 base scheme a year ago.
Senior Jaxon Soddy leads the way. He was a second-team all-Badger South selection as a junior. Linebacker Jerry Lipke and defensive back Blake Fuchs were honorable mention all-league players.
“We’re pretty strong at linebacker right now,” Lee said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who should be pretty good.”
Milton has far less experience returning on the offensive side of the ball.
Four different players were vying for the quarterback job as of late last week: junior Danny Weitzel, senior Chance Nelson, sophomore Hunter Pernot and senior Kyle Hanauska.
Senior Kam Van Natta and junior Josh Johnson will pave the way from the running back position.
Lee said the team’s receiving corps is relatively new but that he’s excited about a group that includes Soddy, senior Jordan Schliem, sophomore Jordan Stivarius and junior Tyler Hughes, among others.
Junior Eric Hessenauer, an honorable mention all-conference honoree last year, anchors the Red Hawks defensive line, along with junior Trenton Jenson and senior John Keller.
“We’re going to make the defense cover the whole field,” Lee said. “We’re going to spread them out and take what they give us. If they’re going to keep everybody near the line of scrimmage, we’ll throw it a little bit. If they want to spread out, then we’ll run it.”
The goal for Lee’s program is to get back to challenging for the Badger South title, which they won at least a share of in both 2014 and 2015.
And a return to the postseason could be in order if the Red Hawks pick up where they left off last fall.
“We ended the year with a nice win,” Lee said. “So we come into the year just focusing on doing our job and being simple but being really good at it.
“If we focus on the little things right off the bat, the rest of it will take care of itself.”