Milton Eagles Are An Uber-Talented Football Team; Here is who you should watch

The defending state champions are a team loaded with talent wherever you look on the field. Milton will return the majority of the starters, returning 17 of 22 from last year’s team. The offense gets a lot of attention especially when you think about the Eagles. The offense is laden with D1 talent. Quarterback Luke Nickel (Miami commit), four-star wide receiver CJ Wiley, tight end Ryan Ghea (Auburn commit), and TE Ethan Barbour (Georgia commit). Barbour adds another dimension to the offense because he can win on the intermediate routes and is a big play waiting to happen.

Teams will have to pick and choose how they choose to defend the Eagles. Wiley is a deep ball threat and a tough cover. Has great track speed on the football field and goes against top defensive backs Tyler Redmond and Dylan Lewis every day in practice. Luke Nickel proved last year he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country with his great playoff performances and knocking off three top 25 teams in MaxPreps national poll. Ghea is a great red zone threat and is good at blocking and receiving as a tight end. Not a flashy guy, but he always does what he is told and plays the game the right way. Also can’t forget about slot WR Tristen Payne who has started to come on and put people on notice with his talent. Don’t be surprised if he has over 600+ yards receiving this season as defenses will likely single-cover him this year. This offense will be intriguing to watch.

“It should be fun. Coach Jackson and his staff do a great job with the offense and obviously have a lot of playmakers and toys to play with. We are going to have to see if we can sneak two footballs on the field at times,” said Milton head coach Ben Reaves. “There are so many guys out there that need the ball and deserve the ball. There is only one, so you just have to keep working for it and hope it comes your way. It should be a fun offense to watch and one that took strides last year from beginning to end. Just returning so much depth and adding a few pieces here and there will be fun to watch to see how they fly around and see what coach Jackson and his staff do with that unit.”

Milton also has a good 1-2 punch in the backfield with TJ Lester and Amauri Anderson. Lester ran for 744 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Anderson ran for 509 yards and three touchdowns. Both were excellent complements to the passing game last year. Another name to watch out of the backfield will be rising junior running back Walker Davis. Davis provides a good burst out of the backfield and doesn’t waste any time hitting the second level of the defense. Milton will be fresh at that position all year long with the depth they have at the position.

Another position Milton has a lot of depth is at wide receiver. WR Grant Haviland has continued to come on and made a strong impression in practice. WR Jordan Carrasquilo has been a standout. Coach Reaves talked about all his impressive young guys.

“Young guys like Jordan Carraquilo have been coming out and making a lot of plays. Guys like Grant Haviland who is also on the offensive side of the ball make a lot of plays. Ayden Williams has been doing it on both sides of the ball. The list goes on and on with the young kids. We are excited to get them all on the field on Friday and evaluate them and see what they are about,” said Reaves.

Defensively, Milton has one of the most underrated linebacking units in the state. When mentioning AJ Benton, Hayden Tumminia, and Tristan Lester, there are not many units you would put above them. The core combined for 304 tackles and 8.5 sacks last season. Benton is a very instinctual linebacker and the thing that separates him is his quick first step. Tumminia is a hard-hitting machine that loves to create big plays. He plays with his head on fire. Lester is a student of the game and wants to get better. He’s grown in size and looks poised for a huge season.

“Tristan is a returning starter. He started for us as a sophomore last year in the secondary and made a lot of plays. Like most sophomores, he went through some growing pains too. He’s worked really hard in the weight room in the offseason and did a lot of track training,” said Reaves,” said Reaves. “He’s gained a step. Bigger, faster, and stronger. He’s flying around at a different speed. He’s got a full year and 15 games under his belt. He’s no longer the young pup. He is a true returning starter and veteran and you can see that confidence in him.”

Caleb Bell gets a lot of attention on the defensive line with his 6-foot-3 and 270-pound frame. He has 18 offers currently. Last year he led the team with 8.5 sacks. Bell is massive and is a force on the defensive line. In addition to Caleb Bell, Billy Weivoda will be a name to watch on the edge. Weivoda has put himself in a position to capitalize on an opportunity that he has been waiting for.

“Billy Weivoda has been waiting for his shot for so many years. A guy that growing up was always one of the bigger kids on the team and one of the more athletic kids on the team. He’s finally getting that shot this spring to show what he can do,” said Weivoda. “He’s another one that has put on some muscle and gained some speed. He’s playing at a high level. He just has to get out there and prove it in game situations like Tristan did when he got his shot. I have no doubt that he will. That is reason 20 why we are so excited to get to Friday and get the guys on the field and let them run around.”

As with any great team that has a lot of hype and media attention, the biggest question is will the team succumb to complacency? Sometimes when you are great and you know you are great it can set in. Now, I don’t think Milton will or has that issue, but they will get every team’s best shot each week. They have phenomenal coaching at each position, a great head coach in Ben Reaves, and a phenomenal culture. The Eagles have a chance to make Milton history by becoming the first class to go back-to-back in program history. The road won’t be easy, but they are more than capable of achieving their goal.

“It’s simple, do you want to make history and separate yourself or not? They won a state championship but we also had another team that won a state championship in 2018. You know 1-1,” said Reaves. “Do you want to separate yourself, go back-to-back, win two and leave here as one of the most decorated classes that has ever left Milton? Daily, there is nowhere to hide here. We have so many high-level players on both sides of the ball that no matter what drill we are in you better show up and turn it on full speed and get after it. If not that guy on the other side of the ball, he’s going to make you look silly. Hopefully, the love of Milton and the love of football will keep us going all year long.”

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