MILTON, Ga. — The last time Milton was at home, they led North Gwinnett late in the game, but a touchdown in the waning seconds cost the Eagles the win. In Friday night’s matchup with Etowah (2-3, 0-0), Milton once again held a one-score lead in the final minute. This time they prevailed.
Milton outlasted Etowah 28-20 with a stop on fourth-and-seven at Milton’s 37-yard line with 30 seconds left to improve to 3-1 in head coach Adam Clack’s debut season.
“There was a lot of emotion and it was a very important game for our guys,” Clack said. “With the goofy weather and the short week, we knew it was going to be a simpler game — lining up and getting after each other.”
Etowah’s physical run game and Milton’s speed were on display in, as Clack put it, a simpler game.
Both teams relied on their rushing games and short passes, though a little trickery from Milton proved to be the difference.
Leading 21-20, Milton ran a flea flicker like play on fourth down with running back Solomon Vanhorse passing to quarterback Jordan Yates on a screen that went 38 yards for a touchdown.
“We thought [Etowah] might be a little over-aggressive or we could catch them sleeping,” Clack said. “We thought why not get the ball in our best athlete’s hands and let him make a play.”
That score would be the final for Milton’s offense, which accumulated 409 total yards in the win.
“We’re a razor’s edge from putting up really impressive numbers up,” Clack said. “We’re seeing it start to happen with the improvements in efficiency and yardage.”
The efficiency was apparent as Yates was 15-20 passing for 210 yards with two touchdown passes and rushed for 52 yards in addition to his touchdown reception. Vanhorse rushed for 111 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter. He averaged 8.5 yards per carry.
Milton’s offense put up those numbers against a defense led by a familiar face. Former Milton head coach Howie DeCristofaro is the defensive coordinator for Etowah.
As the offense was able to move the ball effectively, Milton’s defense stood tall against Etowah’s power offense.
“We knew they were going to run right at us and we hadn’t seen a team like that this year,” Clack said. “I think it took our guys a minute to adjust, but we were able to readjust and regroup and slug it out with them.”
Milton opened the scoring on their first possession with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Yates to DJ Albright, but Etowah tied the game at 7-7 on their ensuing possession.
The two teams exchanged scores quickly again in the second quarter and the game was tied 14-14 at the half.
A 45-yard Etowah touchdown gave Etowah its only lead of the game, 20-14, after the PAT was missed.
Jordan Yates connected with Kevin Murphy for a 26-yard touchdown soon after, extending the lead with the trick play touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Milton had a chance to put perhaps put the game away in the fourth quarter driving inside the red zone. But Yates would be intercepted in the end zone.
Etowah’s ensuing drive also ended with an interception as defensive lineman Justin Blanks intercepted a screen pass.
With 4:29 left in the game, Etowah’s offense took the field once again, but a turnover on downs in the final minute allowed Milton to seal the win.
Milton has a bye this week before facing rivals Roswell on the road.