Milton dominated Collins Hill with the running game for a 44-15 home win on Friday in an opening round game of the AAAAAAA state playoffs.
The Milton Eagles (9-2), a No. 2 seed from Region 5, earned their first playoff win since 2014, when they reached the quarterfinals. They’ll travel next week to Brookwood, the No. 1 seed from Region 7.
The Collins Hill Eagles, a No. 3 seed from Region 6, end their season at 6-5.
Quarterback Jordan Yates rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and feature back Solomon Vanhorse had 114 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries to lead Milton. In the first half, Yates rushed 144 yards and Vanhorse had 111, including a 70-yard scoring run in the first quarter.
“They really respected our passing game so we knew we’d be able to run the ball a lot,” said Yates, a junior. “And that’s what we did.”
To earn the lopsided win, Milton overcame a game-opening drive that had a false start penalty and three runs totaling minus-1 yards, including a fumble recovered by Collins Hill linebacker Jared Bartlett, who returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.
That was the only lead Collins Hill would have and it lasted all of a minute. Three plays into Milton’s ensuing drive, Vanhorse rushed up the middle for his 70-yard score, which tied the game at 7 with 9:44 left in the first.
That was the beginning of a 44-0 Milton run.
“It’s a 48-minute game,” said Milton coach Adam Clack, in his first season with the program. “We’ve been in a lot of tough spots this year and this team has never panicked and never pointed fingers at one another. They just go back to their training and they trust in each other. They started making some plays and playing good defense and we were able to come away with a win.”
After the lost fumble, Milton scored touchdowns on its next four drives to build a 27-7 lead it would take into halftime. Meanwhile, Collins Hill’s first-half possessions ended in four punts, a missed 28-yard field goal and an interception on a fake field goal play that ended the second quarter.
Collins Hill’s start to the second half was a disaster. Its first play from scrimmage was an interception returned 23 yards for a touchdown by Joe Charleston, a junior safety committed to Clemson. That gave Milton a 34-7 lead.
Collins Hill then went three-and-out on its next two possessions and Milton capitalized with a 38-yard Hayden Hairston field goal followed by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Yates to Dash Hairston on fourth-and-5. That score gave Milton a 44-7 lead with 5:05 left in the third and ensured a running clock for the fourth quarter.
The Collins Hill offense managed its only score with 9 seconds left on Tank Pritchett’s 1-yard run, with quarterback Brendan Koerner connecting with John Michael Findlay for the 2-point conversion to bring the score to its final margin.
Collins Hill was led by Evan Anderson’s 95 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Yates, who also threw for two touchdowns and 59 yards on 6-of-12 passing, said he’s expecting a challenge next week when Milton plays Brookwood. The two programs played each other in preseason scrimmages.
“They’re a really good team,” Yates said. “We know them pretty well. We played them a couple times in the spring and in the summer. It’s going to be a great game.”
Collins Hill 7 0 0 8 - 15
Milton 20 7 17 0 - 44
C - Jared Bartlett 12 fumble return (Rodolfo Gonzales kick)
M - Solomon Vanhorse 70 run (Hayden Hairston kick)
M - Jordan Cox 2 pass from Jordan Yates (kick failed)
M - Vanhorse 3 run (Hayden Hairston kick)
M - Yates 1 run (Hayden Hairston kick)
M - Joe Charleston 23 INT return (Hayden Hairston kick)
M - Hayden Hairston 38 FG
M - Dash Hairston 35 pass from Yates (Hayden Hairston kick)
C - Tank Pritchett 2 run (Brendan Koerner pass from John Michael Findlay)