The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

November 28, 2013

Milem is Clinton Herald's Coach of the Year

ERIE, Ill. -- Chuck Milem met with the seniors on this year’s Erie/Prophetstown football team before they even became Panthers and saw the potential. But, for those who call it a quick turnaround for a 1-8 team two years ago to go 8-3 this season, he begs to differ.

Milem, who has guided back-back teams into the Illinois high school playoffs, has been named Clinton Herald Coach of the Year in football.

“This is my sixth year,” he said after the Panthers exited from the Class 3A playoffs earlier this month. “About the fourth year we kind of saw a lot of change, and the fifth year, here we go, we got in the playoffs. Then here we are today. It might look fast now, but it was long for me in those first few years.”

The transformation has impressed his peers.

“I love that guy,” Fulton coach Patrick Lower said. “He’s one of those guys who works hard at what he does. I consider him a friend.

“When he took the program over I believe they were 1-8 and the year before had only 15 or so players. Now they have had their first playoff win, first home playoff game and they have 60 kids in their program. He came in and established a program. There were some rough years, but now they’re reaping the benefits of doing things the right way.”

Milem took over in 2008 after a pair of 1-8 seasons. His first team finished with the same mark, but the next one went 3-6, and he saw encouraging signs.

“I remember meeting on this field (in Erie) -- when our seventh and eighth grades -- weren’t even co-ops, and those (2013) seniors played each other right here in their JFL game their eighth-grade year,” Milem recalled. “I came out here and brought them all together, and I said, ‘We’ve got a lot of talent here on both sides. You’ve got good linemen, and you’ve got good skill players, and if we put this team together we’ll have fun.’ I can remember that conversation like it was yesterday.”

Another 3-6 season followed in 2010, but a dip back to 1-8 in 2011 was not a sign of things to come.

Led by Zach Inskeep, last year’s Herald Player of the Year, the Panthers went 5-4 for their first winning season since going 6-4 in 2002, the second year of the co-op arrangement between Erie and Prophetstown. Then this fall, that group of eighth-graders that Milem talked to four years ago, led the way to a 7-2 regular season, the first playoff win in the program’s history and an 8-3 record overall.

“The seniors last year that we had set a bar for the groups coming in,” Milem said.

This Class of 2014 raised it.

Led by three-year starting quarterback Ethan Howard, Herald co-Players of the Year Owen McConnell and Nick Williams and senior-dominated lines, the Cardinals went 7-2 in the regular season, when a only a loss to Class 2A state finalist Sterling Newman prevented them from winning the Three Rivers Conference North Division title. Next came the first playoff win since the co-op arrangement started in 2001.

And, since the team that beat them in the second round, Stillman Valley, will play in Friday’s state championship game in DeKalb, it’s not hard for them to imagine how far they might have gotten if just a few things had been different that day that ended with a 24-14 loss.

With Howard sidelined, Jordan Chandler was thrust into a difficult role after taking over late in the first-round win against River Valley.

“Jordan, we think, is a kid who is poised beyond his years,” Milem said. “There were a few things we had to alter for him, but this was a great experience for him going into the future.”

As good as he’s going to be, though, he had nowhere near Howard’s experience.

“It does affect us because that speed is different from the first round,” Milem said. “That was a whole different level of speed. Jordan had never seen that all year (and) Ethan was used to that. Newman is the one that we would have seen that same speed coming at us defensively. Ethan has always held us together, been starting since he was a sophomore.”

And had there not been a howling wind in its face, Stillman Valley probably would have elected to punt when it faced fourth down at its own 20-yard line, trailing 8-0 in the second quarter. Instead, the Cardinals went for it, and an 80-yard touchdown run changed the momentum of the game.

Despite that loss, eight wins was the most for Erie players since the 1963 Cardinals squad went 9-0 and the most for the Prophetstown side since the Prophets went 9-2 in 1988. Before the 2002 Panthers -- the second year of a co-op arrangement between the schools -- Erie had never qualified for the playoffs individually, while Prophetstown hadn’t gone to the postseason since a run of five trips in six years ended in 1990.

Milem is hoping the foundation has been set for playoff runs to become an expectation, not an exception.

“I just think we build expectations in the offseason, and build expectations for our program all the way down to the JFL levels all the way through,” he said. “We feel like we’re building a tradition. Each year, the kids feel like they’re a part of that tradition and want to continue to build on it. There are expectations there now -- you’ve got to do it. That’s part of building a program, and I think we’ll continue to do that.”

Although graduation will claim some exceptional players, Milem will have returning talent next year, including All-Area lineman Dylan Binion and fellow sophomore Chandler, part of the first class that has played as one team since junior football in fifth grade.

It’s part of a foundation that Milem believes is established for continued success.

“It’s definitely a full process from working with the junior football program and offseason. Once the kids really bought in, it’s been fun to watch it go. It’s fun to watch the background with support from both towns.”

1
Text Only
Sports
  • River Hawks win triangular CLINTON -- Cration Andresen claimed medalist honors and teammate Logan Wilhelm took second Thursday as they led Easton Valley to first place at a boys golf triangular hosted by Camanche at The Oaks Golf Course. Easton Valley finished with a 190-strok

    April 19, 2014

  • White Sox whipped by Texas Rangers ARLINGTON, Texas -- Martin Perez turned toward first base, waiting for the call he hoped was coming. When the umpire's arm went up signaling a strikeout on Dayan Viciedo's check-swing with a full count, the young Texas Rangers left-hander pumped his

    April 19, 2014

  • L'Kings keep Hot Rods cold BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- There's nothing like jumping on a team when it's down, and the Clinton LumberKings did just that Friday night. For the second night in a row, the LumberKings used a five-run inning to take a victory at Bowling Green Ballpark, th

    April 19, 2014

  • Saints split on the road CEDAR RAPIDS -- Ashford split a pair of lopsided softball games on the road Friday. The Saints beat Mount Mercy 14-2 in the first game of the doubleheader, but the Mustangs came back to take the second game 9-1 in five innings. Special to the Herald

    April 19, 2014

  • Cubs drop fifth straight CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija has had a hard time finding run support this season. The same could be said for all Chicago Cubs' pitchers. First, the good news: Chicago managed to break a 24-inning scoreless streak. And then, the usual dose of bad news:

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-19-14 1B-Photo, Fulton catch HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL Hall halts Steamers FULTON, Ill. -- Fulton knew it had its hands full heading into Friday's baseball game against Hall. After all, the Red Devils entered the game with an 8-1 record, and they had momentum after blanking Rockridge the day before. Fulton fell to Hall 5-2

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Shutout gives Ashford split CLINTON - Kevin Delzell's strong pitching helped Ashford come away with a split as it began its final home weekend of the season with a split against Clarke in college baseball Friday afternoon at Ashford University Field. Ashford got a strong pitchi

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-18-14 1C-Photo, Blackhawks Blackhawks start blue in Cup defense ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues went the distance, and then some, to get the jump on the defending Stanley Cup champions. Alexander Steen scored at 26 seconds of the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history and give the Bl

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • River Kings light up the Day DAVENPORT -- Clinton continued its strong season in boys track and field, taking first place Thursday at the Jesse Day Relays on the final day of qualifying for the Drake Relays. The River Kings scored 138 points. Solon edged Davenport Central 120-11

    April 18, 2014

  • 4-18-14 3C-Photo, Rasche Clinton tennis splits with Muscatine CLINTON -- The Clinton tennis team faced Muscatine at Max Lynn Tennis Complex on Thursday where it was a tale of two duals. The girls' team won 9-0 over the Muskies while the River Kings fell 8-1. Queens sail in sweep In the six singles matches, not

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

High School Sports