Milton High utilized a pair of tricky first-half plays to turn a scoreless nailbiter in its favor on Friday at Cambridge, topping the host Bears 24-6 in the second ever meeting between the two teams.
It was the first time the two had met at Cambridge, after the Eagles (2-1) topped the Bears (0-2) 28-21 at home last season.
“This was a big win for our guys,” Milton coach Adam Clack said after the game. “There was a lot of emotion coming into tonight. There always is when you’re playing a crosstown rival.”
Midway through the second quarter, though, the emotion was running thin on both sidelines.
Both teams had gone scoreless, trading turnovers and blocked field goals to land in a stalemate with just over six minutes remaining in the half. And even after Milton put its first three points on the board with a 26-yard field goal with 4:41 left in the second, Clack still felt like his team needed a spark.
So, he called an onside kick, which was recovered by sophomore Jack Rhodes. Then, with the Eagles offense back in business near midfield, he called a tricky halfback pass that was completed for 35 yards from senior Solomon Vanhorse to senior Will Kersey. And then, quarterback Jordan Yates connected with wide receiver Dakota Warfield for a 12-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 10-0 just 21 seconds after the previous score.
The rest was history.
“We felt like we needed a spark on offense,” Clack said. “We thought it was a good time for a calculated risk. We were fearful of another long drive that might sap our intensity even more. We trusted our defense if we didn’t get it back, but we felt like it was a great time to turn things in our direction the other way.”
While it didn’t turn the game completely on its head, it did give Milton just enough heading into the break. The Eagles extended their lead on a long 16-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to open the third, culminating in a 1-yard dive by Yates for the touchdown. The drive sapped nearly half of the third quarter, and made it 17-0.
Cambridge flirted with a comeback, scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard run by running back Matt McCree just before the end of the third and taking the ball to the Milton 26 two drives later. The Bears threatened on that drive, but quarterback Hogan Dykes was sacked on fourth down by London Best, ending the minor threat.
Vanhorse followed with five carries for 61 yards and a score on the ensuing drive to erase all doubt.
Clack said he was happy with the defense’s effort, allowing only six points and 233 total yards, but would like to see them start to exert more pressure on the opposing offense.
“The effort was phenomenal,” he said. “We’re solid as a bend-but-don’t-break defense, but I’d like to stiffen up even more and force the action a little bit to allow our offense to find an earlier rhythm.”
Yates finished 18-of-30 for 189 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 64 yards and a score in the game. Vanhorse carried 15 times for 125 yards to go with his score. If there was a negative for the Eagles, it was the 15 penalties, something Clack said he and his staff would address during the bye week. He stressed, though, that the number didn’t concern him.
“It’s early-season stuff,” he said. “We’ll get that figured out.”
Milton returns to the field on Sept. 15 against Etowah at home. Cambridge plays next Friday at Chattahoochee.