A tricky touchdown pass and a pair of defensive stops in the second half were just enough to propel Milton to a 28-20 win over visiting Etowah on Friday at home.
The win made it two straight for the Eagles (3-1), who coach Adam Clack said are on the cusp of being able to put everything together.
“These guys are handling a lot of new coaches, new playbooks, new expectations, all those kinds of things,” said Clack, in his first year with Milton after spending three years in the lead role at West Forsyth. “They’re learning each week, and you can see it right in front of your eyes. We’re right on the cusp.”
Friday’s contest was what Clack called a “man-maker game.” The opponent was one Milton hadn’t beaten since the 2014, one that despite a now losing record (2-3) is still among the more competitive programs in Class AAAAAAA.
On Friday, Etowah pushed the home team to the final seconds, making it as far as the Milton 31-yard line with 15 seconds left before turning the ball over on downs to end the suspense.
To get the win, Milton needed to exhaust its offensive repertoire, relying on what Clack called an “ambush” play – not to be confused with a “trick.”
“We don’t call them tricks,” he said. “We work them like we do any other. We like to come out with a couple ambush plays in our back pocket.”
This particular one took place inside of three minutes left in the third quarter. Milton clung to a 21-20 lead, having just pulled in front five minutes earlier on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Yates to wide receiver Kevin Murphy.
This time, it was Yates hauling in the touchdown pass, a 38-yarder from running back Solomon Vanhorse, to cap a seven-play, 67-yard drive and take a 28-20 lead. Yates took the snap out of the shotgun and handed off to Vanhorse, who started to run right. After handing the ball off, Yates nonchalantly continued out to the opposite side of the field, where Vanhorse tossed a strike. Yates caught the ball, took off down the sideline, hurdled a defender at about the 20, landed smoothly on his toes and carried the rest of the way for the score.
Yates’ thought process as the play developed?
“Don’t drop it,” he said with a laugh. “Just don’t drop it. I knew it was going to be a touchdown if I pulled it in.”
It capped a productive day for the junior, who passed for 208 yards and two scores, ran 13 times for 45 yards, and had one reception for 38 yards and a touchdown. His lone hiccup, and arguably the offense’s lone hiccup, on the day was an ill-timed interception early in the fourth quarter. Three plays after a touchdown pass was erased on a holding penalty, Yates looked to the end zone again, but was picked off by Etowah’s Kevin Jepson.
With the score still 28-20, Etowah had a chance to at least close the gap, if not tie the game, but Milton linebacker Justin Blanks intercepted a pass on the other end to halt a threat at the 34-yard line.
The two teams entered halftime tied 14-14, exchanging touchdowns on each of their first offensive possessions and, after four straight punts, exchanging touchdowns again in the second quarter.
Milton struck first on a 40-yard touchdown pass from yates to wide receiver D.J. Albright, who had no defender within 10 yards of him in any direction on the play. Etowah tied the game seven minutes later on a 1-yard run by quarterback Patrick Ferris.
Milton jumped back in front on a 56-yard touchdown run by Vanhorse, who notched 118 yards and a score on 14 carries to go with his touchdown pass. Etowah again climbed even with a 10-yard pass from Ferris to Blake Jones, who stayed with a ball that had been batted into the air in the end zone by the defender.
Etowah’s lone touchdown of the second half was a 45-yard run by Nick Maddox that briefly put it ahead. A missed extra point kept the margin at six, a lead Milton erased in less than three minutes of game time.
Ferris finished 15-of-23 for 166 yards, a touchdown and an interception, Jones caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Maddox notched 84 yards on 14 carries in the game.
Both Etowah and Milton have a bye next week before playing at Cherokee and Roswell, respectively, on Sept. 29.