Back to work
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Keith Jones knew from the time that Harrison Urda was in youth football, he would someday play an important role for the Milford High School varsity team.
How could he not? Urda is the son of a football coach.
“He’s a coach’s son,” Jones said. “He was going to be the quarterback, or something like that. It’s just how it goes.”
As the Spartans prepare for the 2013 season, that task is made a little easier thanks to Urda, who will be a senior, and returns as a starter at quarterback and in the defensive backfield.
“Any time you have an experienced quarterback returning is a bonus,” Jones said. “Not to mention he’s a great kid. He got elected as a captain by a ton of votes. He started every game on defense as a sophomore and got to play some quarterback at the end of that season. He came in last year as a veteran on defense, so that was huge for us. His defensive play was just as important as his offensive play.”
The way Urda is called upon to play offense in Milford’s wing-T system is a lot different than many of his peers in the area. The Spartans only throw the ball when its a necessity and rely heavily on misdirection in their running game, something that’s made a little bit easier thanks to the stature – literally and figuratively – of the quarterback.
“Harrison is the prototype wing-T quarterback,” Jones said. “He’s small in stature, but big in heart and he’s not afraid. There’s no fear. There are times he gets rocked and he gets right back up. It helps in the deception of the wing-T. When you have a 6-5 kid out there, everybody knows where the football is. He scrambles, he gets big kids off their feet and he gets away.”
“I don’t want to be the individual who is the big star and throws touchdowns,” Urda said. “I want to be the team player and get the ball to someone who can get in the end zone.”
Ever since his days playing for the Milford Mustangs, Urda has been a quarterback. And he’s always been on the varsity sidelines, first at Merrimack, where his dad, Rick, was the head coach. In 2008, Rick Urda moved over to Milford as an assistant.
“Whether he was at Merrimack, or here, he was familiar with the players,” Rick Urda said. “He got to hang out with them, and the older kids are always accepting of the younger kids, whether its a coach’s son or some other kid. They always took him under their wing.
“Keith and I have been friends for years, before I even stared here. That familiarity with him and the coaching staff, I think it gives (Harrison) a sense of comfort. He’s not as anxious as a kid coming into the program who is unfamiliar with the staff. He was a little more comfortable with it.”
That comfort helped Urda start as a sophomore, and he got a tough introduction to the varsity game. In the first game of the 2011 season, a win over Londonderry, Urda took a shot at the end of the game that left him on the ground momentarily.
“As soon as the game was over, I was the first one off the field to congratulate and hug him,” Rick Urda said. “I’m very proud of him. He does a lot of hard work. He doesn’t need to be poked, he goes out and he knows what it takes to be good.”
While there can be some negatives, the younger Urda appreciates the luxury having a coach around at all times.
“It’s special and it’s hard at the same time,” he said. “He pushes me because he wants me to be good. It’s nice to go home and talk with him about what did I do wrong, what can I get better at and what were the good things.”
There was a lot of good last year, as the Spartans went 7-2 in Division III and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2006. With the NHIAA’s realignment changing the division format – from six down to three – Milford will now be competing in Division II in a conference with Souhegan, John Stark, Trinity and Windham. Four of those teams made the postseason in their respective divisions last year, and only two will this season.
“We were so close last year, and as soon as it ended, we all got together and said ‘next year is our year,’ ” Urda said. “It’s one game at a time and beat your opponent. Just getting into the playoffs and winning it all, that’s our goal.”
For Milford to be successful, it will start with Urda, and that path to success is playing mistake-free football.
“Do what he does and be efficient,” Jones said. “Don’t turn the ball over and don’t do too much. Be an athlete. He’s not Tom Brady and he knows that. The good thing is that he doesn’t try to be anything he’s not.”