But head coach Tom Dell’s team learned just how hard a repeat was in 2011, and despite a strong start this spring the Eagles are taking nothing for granted in their quest to a third state championship in four years.
“After winning a state championship it is easy to simply expect that to happen the following year and that is what we did in 2011,” said Dell, whose team won the school’s first state title in 2010 before falling to Harrison in the Final Four in 2011. “We just expected to win and forgot what got us to the state championship in the first place.
“Luckily several of my key players this year were on the team in 2011 and understand that the minute that we stop working and doing the things that got us there someone is going to knock us off our pedestal.”
Through eight games this season, nobody has knocked a focused group of Eagles off that pedestal yet, despite Milton playing some of the toughest competition in the state.
Their 8-0 record includes wins over last year’s AAAAA state runner-up Lassiter (14-12), 2011 and 2012 AAAA state champion Lambert (9-7), 2011 AAAAA state champion Walton (13-3) and the state’s No. 9 ranked Roswell Hornets (10-6).
Dell said the team’s success has been led by star players Nick Basile (second-team all-state last year) and Jake Jenkins (23 goals) but also revolves around a roster that is as deep as any he has fielded at Milton.
“Our biggest strength is our depth. We have eight or more different players scoring each game so it is really hard for the opposing teams to stop,” said the Milton coach.
“Also those players that are very gifted in the offensive end have bought into ‘defense wins championships’ and give 100 percent [on defense] regardless of who they are.”
Brandon Davis (18 goals, 11 assists), Nick Newell (10 goals) and Evans Lockwood (10 goals) have all had their hand in a balanced offensive attack while Michael Saccone (16 takeaways) and Jake Durand (14 takeaways) have helped goalie Mike Makrides anchor a defense that is allowing a miniscule four goals per game.
Milton’s tough schedule will continue tonight when they play their final region game against Etowah, where a win locks up an area championship.
The Eagles will then play five out-of-state teams before returning to Georgia for a tough four-game stretch that leads into the state playoffs — a place where Dell said his team must be playing at their peak to pull off the repeat.
“We can’t afford to overlook anyone and we know [every opponent] is going to play us just like it is a state championship game.
“It’s a difficult [schedule] but by the end of the season we should be battle tested and ready for playoffs.”