By Kristin Rover
The Milford Eagles had an army of casts and crutches manning their sideline on Friday, Oct. 18, able to do nothing more than watch as the Eagles fell to Turpin 23-2, dropping their fourth consecutive game to make them 3-5 on the season and 0-4 in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference.
“The biggest thing we’re dealing with right now — as probably most everybody is — is injuries,” fourth-year Milford head coach Shane Elkin said. “We’re just broken. We’ve got broken bones, bad knees and everything else. Two weeks ago, our trainer said that it’s amazing how few injuries we have and he jinxed us because it was like a floodgate opened up.
“We’re trying to put guys on the field who we think can play, but they’re not the guys we started the year with.”
The Eagles are playing without, among others, starting safety Blake Golden, starting nose guard Connor McCracken, starting linebacker and special teamer Austin Bell and starting defensive lineman Thomas Hoskins, all of whom saw significant minutes to start the season.
On Friday night against a proficient Turpin offense, the banged up Eagles defense held their own, keeping the Spartans within one score throughout the first three quarters of the game. Bending, but not breaking, Milford didn’t give up a touchdown through the first 36 minutes, instead forcing Turpin to settle for three field goals, which kept the Eagles within striking distance.
“The defense played great football,” Elkin said. “It was 9-2 at the end of the third quarter and I told our kids, ‘if we score here, it’s a 9-9 ballgame.’
“Offensively, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We had a horrible time fielding the ball on special teams and that really hurt our starting position. We were able to get out (from the shadow of our own endzone) pretty well, but once we’d get to the 40 (yard line), we’d do something stupid — a procedure penalty, a hold. It was just one of those nights.”
Elkin said that he had to give credit to the Turpin defense for keeping the Eagles off kilter.
In the final frame of the game, Turpin found a soft spot on the outside of the Eagles’ defense and exposed it. They cashed in on a missed tackle, scoring on a 56-yard pass play and then backed up their first touchdown with another on their next possession.
“We were a little soft on the edge with run support and they started to pick on that side of the field,” Elkin explained. “They made some plays and made the score look a little worse than it actually was. But you have to give them credit for executing on offense and in terms of their defense, they kept making the plays and we didn’t.”
While the varsity team continued to show signs of improvement on Friday night, Elkin is especially pleased with the foundation of his program, going down as far as the junior high level.
“At this point in the season, my seventh graders are 4-3, my eighth graders are 6-1, my freshmen are 4-4 and my (JV) are 5-3,” Elkin said. “We’re on target to have a .500 or a winning record at every level.
“My goal going into the season was to become competitive at the varsity level and have a winning record at every team below. I’m really pretty excited about it. In my 15 years coaching and teaching in this district, I don’t recall being as successful, top to bottom, as we are right now.
“My job is to win games on Friday nights, but in terms of the restructuring of the program and implanting our offense and defense at every level, we’ve really come a long way in the last four years.”
As for the remaining Friday night games, Elkin and his squad are prepping for a matchup with Walnut Hills on Oct. 25 and a season-ending game at Loveland on Nov. 1.
A strong finish by the varsity Eagles is important to Elkin, but he believes it could be a linchpin moment for the 13 seniors he has on the roster.
“I feel like this (week against Walnut Hills) is a very big game for our program,” Elkin said. “If we win this game, we put ourselves in line for a 5-5, 4-6 year and that gives our graduating seniors that satisfaction of (knowing they) moved the bar. It would also give our younger guys a taste of some varsity wins and the first league win in a long time here.
“If we can get that league win (over Walnut), we can go play a great Loveland team and with it being a rivalry, anything can happen.”
Elkin said he believes his team matches up well with Walnut Hills, so long as they can limit the impact of some of their athletes.