A few days ago, the Baltimore Sun listed six Baltimore-area varsity football teams as being tops in their regions going into the final week of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s fall season.
- In Class 4A — East: Millersville (Old Mill)
- In Class 3A — North: Baltimore (Milford Mill)
- In Class 3A — East: Columbia (Long Reach)
- In Class 2A — North: Parkton (Hereford)
- In Class 1A — South: Baltimore (Reginald Lewis)
- In Class 1A — North: Havre de Grace
Milford Mill Academy hosted Kenwood this afternoon on an artificial turf field that’s new to the west Baltimore school, and the game was expected to be somewhat of a blowout, given Milford Mill’s top standing and Kenwood’s 3-6 record coming in. But a blowout it wasn’t. The game ended in a 26-16 score with Milford Mill on top, but that outcome was anything but certain until the very end of the fourth quarter.
Principal Kyria Joseph welcomed fans to the school for Senior Day and even escorted a few players down an adoring gauntlet herself during the halftime ceremony, to rousing cheers from the gallery. Some players walked in the mini-parade with moms and dads, grandparents, uncles, aunts, little sisters, girlfriends, and a host of friends, as announcements were made about how long they had played with the program and what honors they had received.
The school has bleachers only on one side—the home team’s sideline—which need to be shared between the two teams. Along with the Senior Day festivities, that sharing and close proximity drove home the notion that every single athlete on the field is someone’s son or daughter and every fan in the stands, regardless of the color of the banner they carry or the calls they may agree or disagree with, is worthy of respect and courtesy. Fans, including students from both schools, brought with them a high level of sportsmanship that is sometimes less obvious when opposing sides face each other from the bleachers.
The game itself started out as the would-be blowout everyone expected, with Milford Mill jumping out to a quick two-touchdown lead before the first quarter was even half over. That must have woken Kenwood up a little, as they came back to within 4, 20-16, very late in the game. An onside kick, if it had been successful, would have set them up to score the winning touchdown. But that didn’t work, and Milford Mill took over near midfield.
Some teams would have taken a knee at this point and run out the clock, but Milford Mill’s players seemed much more focused on getting into the end zone, even with a comfortable lead and possession of the ball, than on running out the clock.
Having scored at least 20 points in all 10 games during the regular season, Milford Mill is positioned well for the playoffs, which start next weekend. Their only loss came on October 7 to an evenly matched team from Franklin High School, and that was only by 4 points.
Some parts of Milford Mill’s game showed brilliance, a sign of great coaching. Reggie White, the head coach, is animated on the sideline, sometimes getting referees to notice and tell him to stay put. But inspiring his huge team is just what he does. He celebrated his 100th win on September 9 when the Millers defeated last year’s Class 3A state finalist Dundalk. Only 25 active coaches in Maryland have hit the 100-victory mark in football, the Baltimore Sun reported.
He not only played on Milford Mill’s 1987 championship team, but he also spent four years in the NFL, working with both the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers.
“I did the college thing for a while and I never saw my kids,” the Sun quoted him as saying. “So I said, ‘The heck with that. I want to coach high school and see them every day.’ The opportunity to come home—I was still being nurtured by John Buchheister and John Pasteur [White’s high school coaches], helping me come on in and now I’ve had an incredible 14 years. I have a level of love for my school that’s second to none. It makes me a lot prouder to do it at my alma mater.”
To show what kind of afternoon Milford Mill was having, it’s useful to look at a few representative snapshots from today’s game.
Once in the third quarter, Milford Mill fought hard for every yard to pick up valuable first downs but then, when they were only 22 yards out of the end zone, fumbled and gave the ball right back to Kenwood. The Millers were able to stop Kenwood on that drive, leading to a punt return that, again, showed signs of brilliance in both the running and the blocking. This time, the Millers started a mere 25 yards away from the goal line but, again, coughed up the ball on the very first play of the drive.
The fourth quarter started well enough, with Milford Mill’s strong safety Javon Milburn intercepting a Kenwood pass and giving his team the ball on their own 22-yard line. Holding penalties on the very next two plays pushed the Millers back to the 11. Par for the course, as the team looked tired and the mistakes started mounting.
A little later, though, a picturesque reception by Ugo Obasi brought Milford Mill down to the Kenwood 10-yard line. They drove to the 2, but on that play, an errant snap had to be chased down, picked up, and run back into the end zone for an apparent touchdown by senior quarterback Kyrel Eley. It was called back to the 35-yard line because of a holding penalty during the chaos, making for a “fourth down and a long way to go,” according to the public address announcer, who didn’t bother measuring the exact yardage.
Eley threw to Khaileb Desmond in another moment of championship play; he ran the ball up to about the 14-yard line, but he needed to get to the 9. Kenwood took over on downs, as great play once again came up short because of a bad snap and penalties.
Milford Mill managed to score one last touchdown in the waning minutes to pad the lead. But it was a nervous victory, and work remains as the team prepares for its playoff run.