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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hughes, Spartans determined to climb back into contention

Travis Hughes has been waiting for his senior
season of Milford High School football ever since the final whistle a year ago.

One of the Spartans’ captains, Hughes knows he and his teammates had an opportunity in 2013 to be one of the best teams in Division II, but finished third in the South Conference and missed out on the conference title game. It was a disappointing end, not just because Hughes and his teammates felt they were a good team, but because they’d carried a lead into the fourth quarter of losses to Windham and Trinity, the two teams that finished ahead of them. ...

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Travis Hughes has been waiting for his senior
season of Milford High School football ever since the final whistle a year ago.

One of the Spartans’ captains, Hughes knows he and his teammates had an opportunity in 2013 to be one of the best teams in Division II, but finished third in the South Conference and missed out on the conference title game. It was a disappointing end, not just because Hughes and his teammates felt they were a good team, but because they’d carried a lead into the fourth quarter of losses to Windham and Trinity, the two teams that finished ahead of them.

“A lot of people thought we should have won both of those games,” Hughes said. “After that happened, a lot of us were in the weight room, a lot of people got back at it. A lot of people were pushing themselves.”

Hughes was among those players, not just working hard to get better on the football field, but also to improve in the other sports he plays. During wrestling season, he won the 285-pound title at the Division II meet, and in the spring, he played a big role for the boys lacrosse team that made the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Milford coach Keith Jones believes the athleticism that comes with being a multi-sport athlete is why Hughes was able to be a two-way starter for the Spartans last season.

“The fact that Travis has become such a great wrestler probably makes him a great football player, just because of the ability and the constant competing,” Jones said. “I think the thing people don’t realize anymore, the most successful kids, except for a few, are the kids who remain multi-sport athletes.”

Hughes is helping to make the line on both sides of the ball a strength for Milford. The Spartans have most of their returners up front, led by the senior, who got varsity playing time as a sophomore before taking on a greater role on the field last year.

Having that returning cast has made life easier through two weeks of the preseason.

“It’s really going to help us,” Hughes said. “Especially on the line, to know where each other is going to be and to know where the blocks are going to be, that cohesiveness is really helping us. Knowing each other for so long, I like the chemistry that we have. We know where each other is going to be and we have to keep building on that. We can build the cohesiveness even more.”

While he’s a first-time captain as a senior, Hughes has been someone players have looked up to as long as he’s been on the team, according to Jones.

“Travis is good and he brings more to the table than just being good,” Jones said. “He is like the official team leader. He’s a captain, but it’s always like he’s been the team leader, even as a freshman. He’s a vocal and excited kid and people look up to him. He certainly brings that experience to the table. He’s not afraid to lead and people are not afraid to follow him.”

Hughes started playing football when he was in sixth grade, and as one of the bigger players throughout, has always been a lineman.

“You don’t get a lot of the hype, but when that person scores, you know its because of what you did,” he said. “On our line, all five guys have to do their jobs. We always pat each other on the back and we might not get in the paper, but we know what happens and we know the backs appreciate it.”

Although wrestling is becoming as big a sport to Hughes as football, he hopes to be able to play football at the next level.

“It’s all up to him,” Jones said. “We want kids to understand, college sports are great, but why are you going to college? To get an education. Travis is a kid who, if he wants to play college football, there are a gazillion places that would love to have him. We’ll make sure that happens.”