Game of the week: Preseason motivation has Milan football on path toward undefeated season
His team may have been coming off one of the worst seasons in Milan football history, but coach Jesse Hoskins knew that this year had the potential to be far different.
So he showed his team what it looked like when Milan started the best two-year stretch in school history.
Before Milan’s season-opener against Ypsilanti, Hoskins played the tape of Milan’s 1996 season-opener, a 28-0 win against Carleton Airport.
The game was the beginning of back-to-back undefeated regular seasons for Milan.
“I tried to plant the seed in their minds about what we were capable of,” Hoskins said.
“We knew that we had a real good senior class that had worked very hard, and we just felt like we had the system in place and we had the players to win every game that we played in. It was just something I wanted them to be aware of.”
Now, Hoskins said, his players are aware of how close they are to replicating the success of those 1996 and 1997 teams. At 7-0, Milan is two games away from completing an undefeated regular season in 2012.
The Big Reds will face their second-to-last hurdle Friday night, when they host Carleton Airport in the AnnArbor.com “Game of the Week.”
The Big Reds may have a playoff berth and a share of a league title all wrapped up, but they still have plenty to play for. That includes an outright league title, something Milan hasn't won since it joined the Huron League in 2000.
“Airport is a big rival for us, and last year they won the league outright themselves,” Hoskins said. “I think that the kids are excited to play in the game.”
Milan has been led this season by Arthur Dukes, the senior running back with a Washtenaw County-leading 1,162 yards.
Dukes’ emergence this season has mirrored that of his team. As a sophomore on junior varsity two years ago, Dukes was a “talented kid,” but “didn’t know how to work and wasn’t very strong,” Hoskins said.
But over the summer, Dukes became a leader in the weightroom, and throughout the season, his workload has increased. In each of the last three games, he’s rushed for 200 yards or more.
“I’m very proud of the progress that I’ve seen in Arthur, and I think there’s a lot of untapped potential,” Hoskins said.
Milan faces a Carleton Airport team looking for a playoff berth, at 5-2. The team has persevered through a season in which coach Adam Barber was removed after the first week of the season.
“Those kids have got to be very resilient and very tough," Hoskins said.