Milton High football coach Matt Lee knows that little things can often add up to big problems.
That was the case in 2017 for the Red Hawks.
Three losses by a combined 17 points cost the team a chance at its 23rd postseason berth in program history. Instead of a 5-4 or 6-3 record, Milton limped to a 3-6 overall mark thanks to problems scoring in the red zone and a slew of ill-timed penalties.
Lee believes the Red Hawks learned a valuable lesson.
"The guys we have coming back, I think, realize how important it is to never lose track of things and to focus on every little detail," Lee said. "We were one or two plays or one or two more stops away last year from being a playoff team."
Milton sat at 3-4 last season and had a chance to possibly earn a postseason bid with a win in one of its last two games. Unfortunately, the Red Hawks lost by a touchdown to Fort Atkinson and ended the season with a three-point loss to Madison Edgewood.
Milton scored 19.1 points per game and welcomes back quarterback Danny Weitzel. The senior threw for 1,553 yards and 12 touchdowns and added nearly 500 yards rushing. Junior Hunter Pernot is pushing Weitzel for playing time.
"They both bring something a little different to the table, and the competition between the two of them is good because they push each other," Lee said.
"In our four-wide offense, they will both see the field because of the options they give us."
Senior Josh Johnson and junior Jerry Jones will get most of the carries in the backfield. Lee calls Johnson the type of back that can get to the edge, while Jones is more of a downhill runner.
Junior Dane Nelson is the top returning receiver.
Seniors Eric Hessenauer and Trenton Jenson anchor the offensive line. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Hessenauer is a two-time all-Badger South selection.
"We're going to take what teams give us," Lee said of his offense. "If that means running the ball 40 times, we will. If it means throwing in some play action, we'll do that, too. I think we'll be pretty diversified offensively."
Milton will stay in its 4-3 defense. The Red Hawks allowed nearly 29 points per game last season, but eliminate the 105 points given up in losses to Monona Grove and Oregon and the defense was fairly steady.
"We were a pretty good tackling team last season," Lee said. "It was mentally where we had too many breakdowns. Missing an assignment, penalties, those types of things hurt us.
"This season the goal is to be more deliberate on defense and to not worry about being too aggressive."
Hessenauer and Jenson will provide the beef on the defensive line, while senior Devyn Miller and junior Colin Schuetz are the team's top linebackers.
Senior Masyn Ulrich and junior Jordan Stivarius are the top returnees in the secondary.
Milton opens the season at home Friday night with a Badger Conference crossover game against Sauk Prairie. The Red Hawks open the Badger South season in Week 3 at Monroe.
"I'm not one to worry too much about the other teams in our conference," Lee said. "My main concern is the Red Hawks, and what we're doing to get better each and every day."