COAL TOWNSHIP - What should have, or at least could have, been has been a recurring theme for Shamokin Area.

The reality, however, is that Friday night's 14-7 Heartland I setback to Milton at Kemp Memorial Stadium was the Indians fifth loss in six games.

The reality, also, is that the Indians have been in most of those games. A break here or there, a late drive for a touchdown and that dismal won-loss record could be reversed.

And the cruel truth about Friday's game is that they got some of those breaks, and it didn't help.

Shamokin's lone score came late in the first half when Erik Taylor scooped up a fumble by Milton quarterback Brady Chappell and raced 36 yards untouched to tie the game at 7.

They got another break in the final seconds of the first half when Shane Williams went high in the air to intercept a Chappell pass directly in front of a Milton receiver in the end zone, preventing the Black Panthers from carrying a lead into the locker room at the half.

In all, they took the ball away from Milton four times - three on fumbles to go along with the Williams interception.

One of those takeaways came when Josh Brown, about to score a Milton touchdown midway through the second quarter, coughed the ball up at the two and it bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.

But they gave the ball away as well. Seven times, the Indians put the ball on the ground. Five of those fum-

bles, Milton recovered. Two of those fumbles led to both Milton touchdowns.

Two plays after Milton recovered a Shamokin fumble at the Indians' 43 in the first quarter, Jayson English rambled 31 yards for a score.

Twelve plays after the Panthers recovered a muffed punt at their own 40 in the third quarter, Jarred Fogelman scored on a 16-yard run to cap the drive that carried all the way into the fourth quarter.

"These kids deserve better than this," Shamokin coach Dan Foor said. "They come in each Monday rejuvenated.

"They work hard. We have a good week of practice. They play hard. I can't fault the effort. But turnovers killed us. We can't win games giving the ball away like that."

Shamokin's defensive effort was a good one. Milton was held to the two touchdowns set up by turnovers. The Panthers' three-pronged running attack was held in check for the most part. And Chappell, a talented passer, had some success, but faced heavy pressure at times as well.

"Our defense stepped up and played a great game, even scored a touchdown for us," Foor said. "And that was a huge swing.

"We had a couple bounces go our way, but we did some things at inopportune times too."

Shamokin had a desperation drive late in the game. The Indians forced a Milton punt with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining.

With no timeouts remaining, the Indians moved from their own 33 to the Milton 24 where, on a third down, quarterback Tucker Yost spiked the ball to stop the clock with 13.2 seconds left.

On fourth down, Yost was forced to scramble to his left and was forced out of bounds short of the first down.

"I know we can't fumble the ball like we did tonight," Foor said. "But I can't fault the kids. They deserve better."