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Camp Does Wonders for Milford

posted Aug 31, 2012, 3:42 AM by Milford Spartans   [ updated Sep 22, 2012, 4:06 AM ]

The Milford High School football team is hoping things can get back to normal in 2012.

So far, the Spartans are on the right track.

Head coach Keith Jones called the 2011 season a year of firsts for the program during his tenure. For the first time since 2001, Milford didn’t go away to football camp during the preseason, and for the first time since moving up to Division III in 2004, the Spartans didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

Milford got back to camp this preseason, taking a four-day trip to Camp Northwoods in Tuftonboro in late August. The Spartans won’t know for two months if it leads to a return to playoffs, but Jones figures it can’t hurt.

“It’s always good to get back to camp,” he said. “Not going last year really hurt. It’s the camaraderie part. You’re there. There is no outside interference.”

For the second straight year, the Spartans will put a young team on the field, but there’s a big difference between this year’s group and last year’s. A lot of those young players got their feet wet a year ago, and return with a good amount of varsity experience.

“Everybody, except for a couple of kids, has varsity experience,” Jones said. “I don’t know how much experience, but everybody got time last year. Tons of kids got tons of playing time. These kids have played and they’ve played good people. They played against Goffstown and Souhegan and Hollis Brookline.”

The Spartans continued to play good teams this preseason, scrimmaging Exeter, the defending Division I champion, and Winnacunnet of Hampton, a team that was runner-up in Division II in 2009-10.

Milford will get the same in its crossover games this year, taking on Bedford, which moved up to Division II, in the season opener, and will face Nashua North.

“We always try to (play) good people,” Jones said. “We want those so that we aren’t shell-shocked. We fared OK (in the scrimmages). We’ve got lots to work on, as always. We’re not ready yet, but there have been some pleasant surprises.”

Two players who won’t take any opponents by surprise this season are running backs Joe Albina and Connor Borne. The pair was a staple in the Milford backfield a year ago, and this season should be no different. Joining them will be quarterback Harrison Urda, who started last year at safety and got some valuable experience under center as well.

Urda’s speed and athleticism should allow Milford to do a little more on offense, but if something in particular is working, Jones will stick with it.

“Everything is dictated by the way the game goes,” he said. “If I can run off-tackle 29 times in a row, I will. Obviously, we all want to run the ball between the tackles and that will part of it. The other part will be getting to the edge with some fast kids.

“We’re trying to put the quarterback in a position where he can throw, if necessary. As much as I hate it, we’ll throw it a little bit. We’re not making drastic changes.”

Despite its record last season, Milford (3-5 in Division III) was in most games, including loses to Portsmouth, Goffstown and Souhegan. The experience of losing those games, and of missing the playoffs, should serve as motivation for this season.

“I don’t know what they learned other than its tough to lose,” Jones said. “They got a taste and a glimpse of what they can accomplish. (Missing the playoffs) hurt badly. Not going to camp and missing out on the playoffs, it was a year of firsts for us. I think that we had a great group of kids all summer. They came in in shape and they’re ready.”

Milford opens the 2012 season on Friday at 7 p.m. at Bedford.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

By JOE MARCHILENA

Staff Writer

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