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When Eagles fly high, all of Milton wins: 2023 state football champs
Milton Eagle Send Off Parade. (Courtesy: Milton Eagles)

When Eagles fly high, all of Milton wins: 2023 state football champs

MILTON, Ga. — The athletes of our Milton Community are known for being hard-working, competitive, and determined to win across all sports and programs. It is our town’s athletic reputation–a catalyst for many to join our community–and why we see excellent programs and athletes coming from both of our high schools in football, lacrosse, baseball, softball and more. When our athletes work hard, when they are coached with relentless focus and commitment, and when families and neighbors rally around to support their kids, it brings our town of Milton’s community together and we all win. The city of Milton has recently experienced another state championship to add to the book of accomplishments by our local athletes from the high school that bears our city’s name. Congratulations Milton High School Eagles.

In December, hundreds of members of our community came to the streets to wave at Milton High School’s football team, cheerleaders and marching band as they headed through Crabapple on their way to represent our community in the state championship game at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The sendoff matched the excitement of what would become an amazing victory for the Eagles. Whether you attended the game live, watched it on tv, heard through the grapevine, or later experienced the victory parade celebrating Milton High School’s 7A State Championship, the victory was not just one for the team but for all of Milton.

In Milton High School’s football history, the 2023 season stands as one of excellence, a testament to a team’s unrelenting pursuit of greatness. Emerging as the 7A State Champions with a formidable 13-2 record, this squad didn’t just win, they etched their name in history, concluding the season as the #1 team and achieving an impressive #11 national ranking by MaxPreps.

Milton Eagle State Championship Awards. (Courtesy: Milton Eagles)

This team’s journey is not just a story of victories; it’s one of resilience, strategy, and an unwavering brotherhood. With a blend of seasoned experience and youthful grit, the squad eclipsed the achievements of the past, including the 2018 and 2021 teams, with a unique flair. The 2023 team, predominantly juniors, was a powerhouse of talent. Leaving fans with the promise of an even more formidable lineup for the following season with 17 of the 22 starters on both offense and defense returning.

Preparation for their games was both meticulous and holistic. Head coach, Ben Reaves, has played a crucial role in mentally conditioning the Eagles, teaching them not just the mechanics of football but also what is required to win with excellence and mindfulness. Reaves helped the team to facilitate a detachment from distractions and fostered a team environment for a focused mindset. This unique approach to preparation underscores the team’s commitment to excellence in all facets of the game on and off the field.

The leadership nucleus of the team was comprised of the quarterback, Luke Nickel, linebackers Jack Lawson, Jacorey Stewart and Hayden Tumminia, and wide receivers Marc Essley and CJ Wiley. They were pivotal in guiding the team’s remarkable journey. Each captain, elected by their peers, brought a distinct style of leadership, collectively fostering a culture of continuous improvement and unshakeable team spirit. They never gave up, they continued to push ahead until the victory was theirs.

Their resolve was tested and proven in the high-stakes environment of the playoffs. The dramatic comeback against Colquitt County, where they overturned a double-digit deficit not once but twice, was a showcase of their mental fortitude and tactical skills on the field. It was in these moments of pressure that the team’s true character shined brightly for fans to see.

The team’s philosophy extended beyond the field, encapsulating a sense of family and brotherhood. New members are embraced with open arms, integrated into the Eagles culture where they are expected to work hard, honor their commitment to themselves and their team, and build camaraderie among teammates. Honor,
hard work, commitment, and camaraderie are their cornerstones and evident in every aspect of the team’s dynamics, from training sessions to the heat of competition.

Coach Ben Reaves. (Courtesy: Milton Eagles)

Their pre-game hype sessions, led by the spirited linebacker Jacorey Stewart, became a ritual, injecting vigor and unity into the team before each game. These moments of rallying were not just about physical readiness; they were about forging a collective will
to win.

In victory, the focus remained on collective success rather than individual accolades, reflecting the team’s philosophy that every triumph is a product of shared effort. They celebrated as a team because they were victorious as a team.

The 2023 season was marked by astounding statistics that speak volumes of the team’s talent. Scoring an impressive 537 points over 15 games, the team averaged 35.8 points per game while maintaining a solid defense, conceding an average of just 15.9 points per game. They had 16 interceptions in the 2023 season, matching the third-highest in Eagle’s history. This balance of offensive firepower and defensive solidity was pivotal in their journey to the championship. The statistics highlight the team’s strong offensive capabilities, solid defense, and standout individual performances. It marks the 2023 season as one of the most notable in the history of Milton’s football program.

Individual players set remarkable records, further highlighting the team’s depth of talent. Quarterback Luke Nickel achieved a record-breaking 457 yards in a single game and an amazing 39 passing touchdowns this season. CJ Wiley, wide receiver, accumulated a spectacular 254 yards in a single game and the most receiving touchdowns with 14 this season. These were just glimpses of the individual brilliance that, when combined, formed an unstoppable force. A highly celebrated play this season was the longest touchdown pass/reception in Eagle’s history recorded with a 99-yard pass from Nickel to Wiley over Denmark. Alex Nover, kicker, also set a record for most field goals made in a season with 17. Together, this team achieved the second-highest total points scored in a full season in team history.

Yet beyond the statistics and the records, what truly propelled this team to their heights was their motivation – a desire to play for each other, for Milton High School, and for our community. It was about leaving a legacy, a lasting imprint of excellence that would inspire future generations of athletes in our community. As the Milton football team looks to the future, they do so not just as state champions, but as a symbol of what can be achieved through unity, perseverance, and commitment to excellence. Their 2023 season is not just a chapter in their history; it’s a blueprint for success, a narrative of a team that rose above challenges to achieve the extraordinary.

When the Eagles flew high to become State Champions at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in December, they scored high not just in terms of the game and titles, but also in the legacy they have continued – a legacy of resilience, unity, determination and we as a community hope to see them fly to the Championship again in 2024.

Congratulations to the 2023 Milton High School Football Team. Thank you for your hard work and dedication, for bringing another State Championship title home to Milton, and representing our community in the state championship- a big win for our community.

When the Eagles Fly High, all of Milton Wins.


  • QB Luke Nickel
  • LB Jack Lawson
  • LB Jacorey Stewart
  • LB Hayden Tumminia
  • WR Marc Essley
  • WR CJ Wiley


  • Head Coach: Ben Reaves
  • Stevie Jackson: OC / QBs
  • Vinny Sylvestri: STC / RBs
  • Rob Williams: AHC / O-Line
  • Steven Stromie: TEs
  • Caleb Reaves: WRs
  • Terrence Edwards: WRs
  • David Willingham: DC / LBs
  • Drew Connell: D-Line
  • Josh Ciarletta: ILBs
  • Justin Miller: OLBs
  • Renaldo Smith: CBs
  • Lonnie Estes: Safeties
  • Les Meenan: Kickers
  • Tom Dell: Head 9th
  • Coby Minton: Asst 9th
  • Austin Mitchell: Asst 9th
  • Jeff Woods: Strength Coach
  • Tayler McPherson: Athletic Trainer
  • Bailey Williams: Athletic Trainer
  • Alisha Sylvestri: Director of Football Operations
  • Gary Sylvestri: Director of Player Development

“At Milton, we believe in the importance of and intentionally pour into the mental part of the game. Every week our kids get an hour of yoga and also an hour of mindfulness training. In every game there will be highs and lows both teams will have to endure. Many times whichever team handles these highs and lows the best mentally, usually has a huge competitive advantage. The training we provide our players helps them manage their thoughts and emotions throughout the game, and keeps them in a ‘we don’t flinch’ mindset no matter what is thrown at us. I’m convinced we’ve won games and made comebacks due to this edge. The hope is that this training will not only help them on Friday nights, but also can help them with the highs and lows life will throw at them as well,” said Head Coach Ben Reaves.

This is an unedited user writing submission. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Best Version Media or its employees.

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