4 Questions with Milton head coach Ben Reaves

081922 Milton, Ga.: Milton head coach Ben Reaves during their game against Lipscomb Academy in the Freedom Bowl at Milton High School Friday, August 19, 2022, in Milton, Ga. Lipscomb won 17-7. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

081922 Milton, Ga.: Milton head coach Ben Reaves during their game against Lipscomb Academy in the Freedom Bowl at Milton High School Friday, August 19, 2022, in Milton, Ga. Lipscomb won 17-7. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Today’s interviewee is Milton coach Ben Reaves, whose team defeated Grayson 45-35 in the Class 7A semifinals last week. Milton will face Walton on Dec. 13 for the championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Reaves came to Milton in 2017 and was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in 2022. Milton is 76-18 with a 2018 state championship since Reaves joined the staff and 22-6 as head coach.

UPDATE: Milton coach Ben Reaves chosen as AJC high school football coach of the year.

1. What did your team do well Friday that was the difference in the game? “I was most impressed with the mental toughness and focus our players and coaches had on Friday night. We preached all week and focused on staying in our zone, doing our process, and playing our game. In big games, it’s easy to fall into the trap of needing to push or do more, but I wanted to make sure the team did not feel the need to do anything other than what got them to game 14. Grayson is a tough place to play, and they were a great team who could grab momentum quickly. We worked hard to make sure mentally nothing about them or the environment affected us in a negative way so all of our thoughts and efforts could be on our effort and execution.” [Grayson took leads of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first six minutes, but Milton went ahead 21-14 on Luke Nickel’s 7-yard TD pass to Debron Gatling with 35 seconds left in the quarter and never trailed again.]

2. One thing that stands out about your team is the talent at quarterback and wide receiver. What are the skill sets of those key players? “The WR room is arguably the best in the state top to bottom. Those guys work hard, take tough coaching daily and push each other in practice. When they get a rep in practice, it’s always a game-like rep because ultimately they understand there is only one football, and if they want it, they have to work hard for it. We rotate seven or eight guys per game out wide, but nobody complains about not being in or not getting the stats they want. They just encourage one another and celebrate each other’s success and focus on team’s accomplishments. The QB room is also arguably the best in the state top to bottom. Luke has every tool you need to be a great QB, but it’s the immeasurables that make him great. He works hard, he leads both vocally and by example, and he just plays with a lot of guts and determination and leaves everything he has on the field for his team.” [Nickel is committed to Miami. Wide receivers C.J. Wiley, Debron Gatling, Tristen Payne, Marc Essley II and Ryan Gea have more than 30 receptions each.]

3. You started 3-2. What is the difference between your team now vs. August/September? “We just turned our losses into lessons. The players and coaches continued to trust in me and our process at Milton, and as a team we got better each day. Ultimately all that truly matters is being the best team you can be after 10 games when you enter the playoffs and it’s win or go home, so a loss or two will not make or break our ultimate team goals. By design, we play a tough non-region schedule, and I know as a coach our overall record may suffer because of that, but ultimately, I know we’ll also be the best team because of that. Our goal is to use those non-region games to show our strengths and weaknesses and make sure by the time we get into region play we’ve eliminated or capitalized on as many of those as we possibly can and by game 11 we’re peaking and clicking on all cylinders. As we go through peaks and valleys of the season and also in games, we can always look back on those early season lessons we learned and the big environments we played in and find some comfort in whatever adversities we may be facing at the time.” [Milton’s losses were to North Cobb and Western of Davie, Fla.]

4. What’s your assessment of Walton? What is unique about them, that is, something they do that no other team does so well, or that has you most concerned? “Walton is a great team, led by great coaches and men. Coach Brunner [head coach Daniel Brunner] runs an incredible program, and all of the success they are having is not by accident. To be honest, they remind me a lot of my team. We each have high-level leaders and players at the key positions. We have guys with deep playoff experience. Schematically, we both can be versatile due to the players that we have, and both teams play very hard and play with a lot of belief and love for one another. If anything, the belief they have as a team and the love they have for one another is what separates them the most from anyone we’ve played so far. At this point in the game, you’re going to have good talent vs. good talent, good coaching vs. good coaching, but I truly believe the X factor is the belief and love you play with, and they have a lot of it, as do we, which is why this is going to be such a fun matchup for everyone involved with high school football. And in the spirit of having a little fun, I’ll add they also have a high-level mustache game over there, one I cannot compete with.” [Reaves’ friend Brunner has had a mustache this season.]

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.

About the Author