MARIETTA, Ga. – One week after being shredded for 47 points by Lassiter and squandering a 17-point lead, the Milton Eagles played what was likely their best defensive game of the season last Friday night at Walton.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the team’s least effective offensive performance of the season combined with costly special teams breakdowns resulted in another decisive loss.
A banged-up Walton team spotted the Eagles an early touchdown before outscoring Milton 27-0 over the final three quarters to score a 27-7 victory in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
Walton, playing without Alabama-bound quarterback Parker McLeod and other offensive starters, had modest success against the Milton defense, managing just nine first downs and 224 yards. Tailback Tyren Jones, one of the state’s top college prospects, needed 33 carries to amass 132 yards and had just two gains of more than 10 yards.
But the Raiders did not need to do much offensively. They scored their first touchdown on a return of a blocked punt, their final touchdown after intercepting a pass deep in Milton territory and the second of two field goals after the Eagles fumbled a kickoff return.
Coming into last week’s game, the Eagles had scored 30 or more points in five of their first six games, but did little after a short touchdown drive on their first series.
Milton went 43 yards after the first of five sacks of Walton’s backup quarterback forced the Raiders to punt from deep in their territory. Treyvon Paulk scored from one yard out, but the Eagles never penetrated the Walton 25 after that.
The usually powerful Milton ground game was held to 162 yards, with Peyton Barber gaining 98 yards on 19 attempts. The Eagles passed for 88 yards, with two interceptions. Milton also lost two fumbles, with the Raiders converting the Eagles’ mistakes into points.
Walton’s Blake Montz returned a blocked punt 45 yards to tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter. A one-handed interception by Montz of an attempted Milton screen pass late in the third period gave the Raiders the ball at the Eagles’ 3 and led to a touchdown that put Walton ahead 21-7.
The Raiders’ go-ahead score came in the second period after a Milton fumble near midfield, with the Eagles’ lone defensive mistake of the night – a blown coverage in the secondary – enabling Walton to hit a 27-yard TD pass on third-and-17.
“We had two interceptions and two fumbles,” Milton coach Howie DeCristofaro said. “And the blocked punt, that’s where it went bad.”
The Milton coach credited the play of his defense, but was disappointed with the Eagles’ offensive effort, especially the line.
“We just didn’t block anybody up front,” he said. “I didn’t feel like there was any sense of urgency.”
Milton is 3-2 in Region 5-AAAAAA and tied for third with Woodstock and Etowah. The Eagles (5-3 overall) play Friday at Cherokee (0-5, 1-7) and host Woodstock in the season finale, with the winner of that game likely finishing third in the region and the loser placing fourth.
Walton (4-1, 6-2) is second in the region behind Lassiter (5-0, 8-0).