MILTON, Ga. — Milton and Buford had to wait two extra weeks before the battle of teams ranked in the top 10 of their respective classes, and while the exciting game proved worth the wait, the Eagles’ late comeback bid fell short, 26-23.
Milton's comeback attempt started with just under seven minutes left in the game with Buford leading by 16 points. Sophomore quarterback Devin Farrell scrambled to his left and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Nickel to begin the bid. The Eagles went for two but were unable to convert.
After the Eagles defense forced a quick three-and-out, Milton took over on offense looking to score fast.
They were successful, as Farrell led the offense down the field in less than two minutes and completed a 19-yard pass to Will Stax for a touchdown. With the extra point added on, the Eagles trailed by three points with three minutes left on the clock and had all the momentum on their side.
The Milton defense made another stop, forcing a Buford punt that would give the ball back to the Eagles offense with two minutes left on the clock. That didn’t happen, however, as the return man for the Eagles dropped the ball and the Wolves recovered deep in Milton territory. Buford then ran out the clock and handed Milton its first loss of the young season.
“Obviously you’re down any time you’re on a big stage, playing a great opponent, and you feel like you’re good enough to win but you don’t,” said Milton head coach Adam Clack. “It always hurts a little bit, but at the end of the day this is a step. It has zero bearing on our season, but it has a huge bearing on whether or not we can learn the lessons.”
Less than one minute into the game, Buford put points on the board with a 65-yard touchdown run.
The Eagles responded with a touchdown on their opening drive. Senior running back Ahmad Junearick ran 60 yards down the sideline before being forced out of bounds at the 30. A few plays later, senior quarterback Jackson Weaver tossed a 4-yard touchdown to sophomore Jack Nickel to go up 7-6 on Buford.
As Milton’s offense stalled with back-to-back punts in the second quarter, Buford's offense rolled. The Wolves scored at the start of the second quarter, this time with a 1-yard run up the middle for a touchdown to take a 13-7 lead over the Eagles.
Later in the quarter the Eagles were unable to hold off Buford on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. The Wolves punched it in and went up 19-7 on Milton with 3:36 remaining in the half.
The Eagles drove down the field to set up sophomore kicker Jason Aussin who hit a 40-yard field goal to bring the Eagles within 10 points.
Despite the heartbreaking fashion in which they lost, Clack saw some bright spots in the way Milton played against a talented Buford team.
“I saw a defense that came back in the second half and actually stopped the run the way we know how to do it,” Clack said. “I saw a field goal by a young kicker. I saw an offense that sputtered at times and struggled to find footing come out and make some huge plays down the stretch.”