The journey will begin Friday night when Big Blue, who haven’t had a winning record since 2010, hit the road to face Milford.
“It’s been a great offseason,” senior center Jacob Metzler said. “We’re going to be the toughest team on the field. We’re athletic. We’ve got a lot of experience. We think we can win every game that we play in, and we expect to win every game that we play in. But you can’t overlook any game.”
HHS handled the Eagles 34-14 last season, but Milford beat the Blue 34-13 in 2014, and Hamilton coach Chad Murphy hasn’t forgotten.
“I know we’re going to play a heckuva football team,” he said. “I’ve read where their coach says this is his best football team since he’s been there. I know what he’s about, and they’re going to be weight-room strong.
“But I feel very good about our team. I feel like we should feel. We’ve got things to work on like every other program in America, but I’m very happy with the progress.”
Murphy’s crew scrimmaged Greater Miami Conference rival Colerain last weekend and lost 14-7 in two quarters of varsity play.
“It was a good gauge for us to see what we need to work on,” Murphy said. “I thought talent-wise and program-wise, it was a great scrimmage for us.”
Milford is coming off a 4-6 campaign, yet seventh-year coach Shane Elkin said his program is on the upswing.
“In recent history, our junior and senior classes are probably the kids that have been exposed to the most success that Milford’s had in a while,” Elkin said. “We feel these kids understand what it takes to win, and we’ve had vast improvement from our first scrimmage to our second scrimmage.
“I love playing Hamilton, especially the fact that we’re playing a Division I team and it’s a GMC school. I always thought it was a great matchup for us when we were in the GMC. I feel like we’re finally in a position as a program that year in and year out it can be a great game for both teams.”
Elkin described his offense as a tight end-based spread. Senior quarterback Tyler Smith (6-2, 195) threw for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, while senior running back Dawson Slone (5-6, 160) ran for a team-best 788 yards and seven TDs.
Senior tight end/receiver Max Brewer (6-3, 225) is a big target for Smith. Senior left tackle Andrew Johnson (6-3, 315) keys the offensive line.
“I really like the mix of our skilled kids and our size,” Elkin said. “In terms of my overall team speed and my perimeter athletes, it’s the best group of kids I’ve ever had as a football coach.”
Defensive leaders for the Eagles are senior linebackers Hayden Sluder (6-0, 205) and Eric Richey (6-3, 220). Senior Chase Witte (5-10, 181) is a standout free safety.
“For us to win, we need to control the line of scrimmage,” Elkin said. “We need to be physical. Defensively, we need to swarm. Obviously, Hamilton is very athletic. They’re going to have multiple kids on both sides of the ball that are more athletic than probably every kid I have on the field. That’s why I like playing them.”
Big Blue will be starting only one player both ways — senior wide receiver/safety Vince Sanford.
Murphy said a number of sophomores should see plenty of action. They include ends Jai’Shawn Deaton and Miquan Hubbard, wide receivers Daveon Williams and DaQuan Maffett, H-back Gage Retherford and linebacker Elijah Spradling.