If, as the saying goes, small schools have sports success with waves of big athletic classes, then Milford is on the crest.
The Wildcats have two huge athletic classes, senior boys and junior girls, both notable not only for the numbers but for the skills of the athletes.
“I’m trying to think of when it has been like this, but I can’t think of anything,” said girls soccer coach Chris Saggese, who also grew up in Milford. “Usually we have four or five girls but I don’t think we have had anything like this.”
The class of junior girls includes Abby Freer, Zoe Green, Addy Lawson, Taylor Olmsted, Hannah Saggese, Brooke Stanford, Mataiah Waters and Sharla Woodrow. It also includes Maddy Zenir and Amanda Fish, who are away this year on Rotary exchange.
The class of senior boys includes Brian Atwell, Blake Elliott, Peyton Griffiths, Max Lang, Michael Strenck, Jacob Tabor, Paul VanWarner and William Ward.
Both groups have already had great success. The girls won the Tri-Valley and Section Four Class D titles in soccer in 2013, as well as the T-V East titles in softball in 2013 and basketball in 2014. The boys are the defending Tri-Valley champions in basketball and also won the East title in baseball in 2013 and 2014. Each group will be the league or division favorites in more then one sport this school year as well.
“It’s definitely nice to be surrounded by athletic people and people that love to compete,” said Ward. “Having such few kids in the grade and also in the school, the athletes generally stick together, and friendships are bonded; in our case, since there are so many athletic kids, we hang out with each other, have dinner at each other’s houses and that builds our friendship and ‘brotherhood’ on the court or playing field.”
The two classes are supportive of each other as well. There are friendships, brothers and sisters, and as one might imagine, a couple of relationships are well. There is also some competition.
“I think since we are both so competitive, we want to perform better than our counterparts,” Ward said. “(We like to see) who would score more goals, win more games, but at the end of the day, we are there for supporting each other both academically and athletically.”
Added Waters, “We love our boys and we support them. We always make sure to support everybody. If we see one of the boys doesn’t have somebody to cheer for him, then we go out of our way to make sure he has someone cheering for him.”
The classes of athletes are not just deep, but also diverse. While soccer is the big sport for many of the girls, Lawson, Zenir and Olmsted are basketball-first girls. For the boys, Ward, Griffiths and Lang are the basketball guys. Tabor, Strenck and Elliott favor soccer. VanWarner, as well as several of the younger boys, are more into baseball.
The success sometimes seems to breed more success, but perhaps it only appears that way.
“We work hard,” Hannah Saggese said. “It isn’t something that breeds itself. It is something we work really hard on.”
Added Waters, “the bar from the previous year is always there for us.”
While the strong athletic classes have provided many great moments for Milford’s fans and the community, there are downsides to the success.
“When you get these classes count your blessings because generally the years that follow tend to be lean as far as numbers go,” said boys soccer and basketball coach Frank Spurchise.
Added MCS Athletic Director Kevin Stevens, “You can have some highlights with a big athletic class and great athletes, but you still have to remember that we are looking out for the whole athletic program, from youth leagues to modified to varsity. We do struggle, as have a lot of small schools, with declining enrollments and trying to field full teams in different sports.”
Those problems are for another season, however, because this season Milford should be winning a lot of games and maybe a few more titles as well.
“My favorite part about playing a varsity sport has to be how a small town community rallies behind the sports teams,” Ward said. “I can speak for everyone on the varsity teams, there is no greater feeling than representing a school and community that supports the athletes with encouragement and high expectations.”