MILTON, Ga. — Reigning Class 7A champs Milton opened their 2019 campaign with a lopsided win over rivals Alpharetta to kick off the Freedom Bowl festivities in a rare Thursday game. The Eagles led just 3-0 after the halftime but scored six touchdowns in the second half and held Alpharetta to under 100 total yards of offense to take the 45-0 win.
The game served as Milton’s season opener, but it was not originally slated to be. The Eagles were supposed to start their season Aug. 23 against Buford in the Corky Kell Classic.
Starting their season a week later than expected, against a rival, in a premier football event presented challenges, Milton head coach Adam Clack said, especially with a bevy of new starters suiting up. But he was pleased with his team’s performance.
His satisfaction including his team’s execution of the game plan, which was to wear down Alpharetta.
“We said let’s come out, establish physicality and not worry about points early,” Clack said. “The game plan was absolutely to wear them down, and we believe in what we have up front. We did feel like we had some shorts downfield, but we wanted to stick to the plan.”
The first half was a defensive battle. While Milton moved the ball somewhat effectively in the opening 24 minutes, they were held to a 38-yard field goal by Sam Riches.
However, the Raiders were stymied in the first half and had negative rushing yards at the break. The Eagles defense continued that trend in the second half, holding the Raiders to negative four rushing yards and 95 total yards of offensive in the game. Will Gerdes was 11-19 passing for 99 yards with an interception.
“I’m proud of our defense, particularly our defensive line and what we have in the middle, those guys played great all night long,” Clack said.
With the Eagles continuing to stonewall Alpharetta’s offense, Milton found separation in the third quarter.
“The game plan started to come to life, we started to wear on them, plays starting happening and we starting scoring points,” Clack said.
Milton extended its lead to 24-0 with three touchdowns from running back Ahmad Junearick, who compiled over 200 yards rushing. The senior scored from 1-yard out midway through the third before a 58-yard touchdown scamper on a sweep play three minutes later. With six seconds left in the third, he found the end zone again on a 28-yard run.
Milton’s defense forced their second turnover of the game on Alpharetta’s ensuing drive, recovering a fumble to set up the Eagles on the Raiders’ 1-yard line. Offensive lineman Paul Tchio took the shotgun snap and used his speed and heft to barrel into the end zone on the next play.
Devin Farrell, who split time at quarterback with Jackson Weaver, put Milton up 45-0 in the final minute of play with a rushing score. Milton compiled just 17 yards passing on six attempts, but the duo combined for 81 yards on the ground.
Both quarterbacks were relative greenhorns to the varsity level, along with a host of other starters after Milton’s phenomenal 2018 class graduated. Clack said his team will likely focus on wearing other teams down while they find their strengths, but he credited his new starters for their performance.
“They exceeded expectations on many levels,” he said. “We saw a lot of inexperienced guys stepping up and making plays and a lot of young guys playing with some swagger and being aggressive.”
With win No. 1 under their belt, Milton will no re-prepare for Buford. The Corky Kell matchup was rescheduled for Sept. 6 at Milton.
“We know [tonight’s win] was a first step in the process, but it’s a nice place to start before we go against a great Buford team,” Clack said.
Alpharetta is also back in action on Sept. 6 to close out its non-region schedule against Lanier. The Raiders won last year’s matchup, 14-9.