Etowah coach Dave Svehla said his team has been doing everything it can to prepare for tonight’s game at Milton (5-0, 2-0 Region 5AAAAAA), so his Eagles (5-0, 2-0) aren’t the ones leaving the nest with a loss.
“We have got to have guys doing their little part of the plan,” Svehla said. “If we have 10 guys executing, and one guy not executing, Milton is really the type of team that can expose you. They are going to make it tough for us.”
Svehla went on to say that, in past seasons, Milton might not have had a good record of success, but things have changed.
Milton introduced a new coach, Howie DeCristofaro — a former Etowah assistant under previous Eagles coach Bill Stewart — in 2011. In DeCristofaro’s first season at the north Fulton school, his team went 4-7 and reached the state playoffs. A year later, Milton went 7-4.
Now, DeCristofaro’s Eagles are eying a Region 5AAAAAA title, like their Eagle counterparts at Etowah.
“Milton is a very good football team. A very physical group of kids,” Svehla said. “They have played extremely well this season. They are big up front and physical. We have our work cut out for us, but I think our kids are excited about the challenge. It’s fun to play a 5-0 team and see where you stand.”
Etowah may have caught a break as Milton’s star running back, Tennessee commitment Treyvon Paulk, was lost for the season to a knee injury.
But that doesn’t mean the task will be an easier. Stepping in for Paulk have been Micco Brisker and Chad Toliver. While neither player has the experience or reputation of Paulk, both are capable.
Etowah may have a key player missing from its lineup as well. While Svehla declined to confirm any players who would or would not be in his lineup, receiver and defensive back Ben Rowell suffered a broken hand and will likely miss tonight’s game.
With two interceptions and two touchdowns to his credit, Rowell’s loss would be felt, but Etowah has plenty of other skilled players to step in, particularly on offense.
Brandon Engle is the Eagles’ leading rusher with more than 500 yards on the season. Quarterback John Oliver is second on the team in rushing, while also capable of putting the ball in the air.
Still, the biggest weapons might be on the defense, with Chandler Steele and Morgan Scott laying down sacks and Logan Ridings and Cory Burdette leading Etowah in tackles.
“We talked to our team this week about being disciplined,” said Svehla, whose team felt the sting of a 59-27 loss to Milton a year ago. “Last year, when we played Milton, they handed it to us pretty good, but we turned the ball over four times in the first half. We were our own worst enemy.
“When you are playing a team like Milton, we have to have minimal penalties, eliminate turnovers and we have to play for field position. If we can do those things, we will be in the game. If we don’t, Milton is too good to give them easy opportunities.”
Last week, Etowah turned the ball over three times against Roswell. It was the first time all year the Eagles had that many turnovers in a game.
Svehla said the 38-36 final on the scoreboard was indicative of giving Roswell too many chances.