When you talk about what makes a particular head coach successful, the topic almost always ends up on how that coach leads his team, and especially how he leads in times of adversity.
This season, the Downingtown West Whippets started the season 6-0, and went into Week 7 against undefeated Coatesville thinking they had a real shot to topple the powerful Red Raiders.
Coatesville won that game, 42-14, knocking Downingtown West from the unbeaten ranks. And to make matters worse — much worse — the Whippets lost their Division 1 prospect, junior quarterback Will Howard, for the rest of the season with a fractured wrist.
All the Whippets did after that, with their third-string quarterback and converted linebacker Ryan Wetzel, was win five straight games. That included two District 1 Class 6A playoff games, reaching the District 1 Class 6A semifinals before bowing out to top-seeded North Penn, 28-14.
The man who led the Whippets, the man who would not let them fold, the man who was a perfect example of what a football team is all about, was Mike Milano. And for going 11-2 and advancing to the District 1 Class 6A semifinals without his starting quarterback, Downingtown West head coach Mike Milano is The Daily Local News All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
“The kids really stepped up this season,” Milano said. “And after Will got hurt my staff and kids were great. They did all the hard work and little things we needed to do to keep the season going. They were great.”
This season was especially important for the Whippets head coach as Downingtown West had missed the playoffs the past two seasons, and as a team the Whippets vowed to bring the program back to where it was, as one of the top programs in District 1.
Mike Milano made sure of that.