MILTON, Ga. – As spirited as the Roswell-Milton rivalry has been for the last six decades, the game has not had a great deal of relevance in recent years regarding playoff implications for the two teams.
While Roswell has been a consistent playoff team dating back to the early 1980s, Milton has been an infrequent postseason qualifier over that stretch. The Eagles made the playoffs regularly in the 1990s, but have been in the postseason just twice since 1999, both in years when the Hornets failed to qualify.
As a result, relatively few of the recent contests between the two teams have mattered in region standings. The last time the game really meant something was 2008, when Milton’s best team since the early 1990s edged the Hornets 20-19, dealing what proved to be a fatal blow to Roswell’s playoff hopes.
After the realignment the Georgia High School Association undergoes every two years, Milton and Roswell are back in a predominantly Cobb/Cherokee region, with the Eagles and Hornets the only two North Fulton schools.
The Region 5-AAAAAA schedule begins Friday night, and Milton hosts Roswell in a game that has major implications for the playoff hopes of both teams.
Walton and Lassiter, both state ranked, are considered the region’s top two teams. Milton came into the season as the most likely challenger to the region’s two favorites, with Roswell emerging as a playoff contender after a strong season-opening showing against Centennial.
But after the second week of the season, the outlook for the upcoming region schedule changed markedly, with some surprising results, two of them involving the Eagles and Hornets.
After an impressive 35-28 season-opening victory at 2011’s region champion Alpharetta, Milton was thoroughly frustrated by Johns Creek, with the Gladiators handing the Eagles a 14-9 setback on Milton’s home field.
Meanwhile, Roswell followed its 42-13 victory over Centennial with a last-second 19-17 loss to Lambert, bringing back unpleasant memories of last season’s 0-10 record, which included several games in which the Hornets led until the final minute.
One of those losses came against Milton in the final game of the regular season. The Eagles won 14-13 on a last-second touchdown following a disputed penalty call against the Hornets on fourth down that enabled the Eagles to keep their game-winning drive going.
The victory was just the fourth for Milton against Roswell since 1983, with the Hornets 24-4 against the Eagles during that span. The two most recent Milton wins have come by one point each, with Roswell scoring most of its recent victories by decisive margins.
This week’s game will match teams that rely primarily on strong running games. The Eagles piled up 430 yards on the ground against Alpharetta, but were stymied by Johns Creek the next week, managing just 72 yards rushing and 141 yards total offense.
The Eagles have two standout running backs (Peyton Barber and Treyvon Paulk) and a large and talented line, but did not respond well when challenged by a well-coached, fundamentally sound Johns Creek defense.
Milton’s defense played respectably in its first two games, yielding most of its yardage either through the air or the running of the opposing quarterback. Like Johns Creek, Roswell is a ground-oriented team, with the Hornets’ tailback Andrew Kwateng amassing 439 yards rushing in the first two games.
Roswell’s defense yielded 270 yards on the ground to Lambert, and faced a tough opponent last week (Johns Creek) before its rivalry showdown with the Eagles.