NETHER PROVIDENCE – Strath Haven senior Sam Milligan’s main focus in Friday’s Central League contest with Conestoga was finding a way to contribute.
It didn’t matter that the quarterback from last year’s District 1 Class 5A champion team wasn’t ready to lead the offense under center. Sporting a bulky cast on his right arm, Milligan is a couple of weeks away from throwing a football again.
But he can make his presence felt on defense.
After suffering an injury in the Panthers’ season opener and missing last week’s game entirely, Milligan was cleared to return Thursday. He had a huge impact in Haven’s 25-0 win over the Pioneers at George L. King Field.
“It’s a lot of training,” Milligan said in his temporary role as a one-way player. “Coaches can prepare you to be in the right places. I knew where I had to be today. The coaches really drilled it into me and that’s it. You put yourself in the right place and try to make a play.”
Milligan made two plays to end Conestoga’s drives. With a deflection, he was able to secure his first interception inside Strath Haven territory in the second quarter.
Conestoga quarterback Peter Costigan tested Milligan with a deep pass in the fourth quarter, but Milligan got past the receiver and caught the pass. It was a very athletic interception for the tri-sport athlete and the third takeout of the night for the Haven defense.
The cast is a bit cumbersome, but Milligan proved that all you need is an arm to choose from.
“I get a lot of weird looks,” he said, laughing.
Milligan’s performance at defensive back was crucial. The Panthers lost top defensive back Aidan Sutherland, who tied for the team lead in interceptions last season, due to an apparent leg injury in the first half.
“When Aidan went down, he stepped up for us and got two picks,” running back/linebacker Austin Conner said. “That was amazing.”
Strath Haven stuck to what he does best on the offensive side of the ball.
The Panthers (3-0, 1-0 in the Central League) called 59 running plays and zero passes. The offensive line of Cole Miller, Jackson Geremia, Carter Law, Will Leuthold and Billy Brown and tight end Ben Farabaugh dominated the Pioneers (2-1, 1-1) up front all night.
Senior Anthony Crawford had 188 yards on 27 carries and had two touchdowns. Bob Fooskas finished with 113 yards and a TD, while Conner rushed for 44 yards on eight totals.
“I’m going to block, I’m going to run. I’ll do whatever it takes,” Conner said. “As long as we win the game, I’m happy.”
Through three games, Strath Haven has outscored the opposition, 102-19.
Jake Kitchin won the opening under center for the second straight week in place of Milligan. He threw for touchdowns on three attempts last week against Kensington.
Conestoga (2-1, 1-1) managed to run just 22 plays on offense, a testament to Strath Haven’s control of the clock. For example, the Panthers used more than seven minutes of the game clock on a 13-play drive to start the second half.
“In the second half we started using and made the necessary adjustments,” Milligan said. “It’s important to us that once we get to the second half, we do what we know how to do.”
Conestoga’s running game was non-existent. He had some success when Costigan (5-for-15, 64 yards) was able to hit big winners through the air.
Their only significant drive of the night ended when Haven’s defense, led by Fooskas, Crawford and Conner at linebacker, stopped Costigan short of a first down on a sneaky fourth down with five seconds left in the second quarter.