MILTON, Ga. — Milton used another stingy defensive performance and its rushing attack to earn a lopsided win over Central Gwinnett (3-8) Friday night in the first round of the playoffs. The win pits the defending state champions against Marietta in the second round for a battle of top-10 ranked teams.
For the sixth straight game the Eagles (8-3) held their opponent to fewer than 10 points.
The Eagles limited the Black Knights to a single touchdown, a 66-yard pass with four minutes remaining in the second quarter. That play accounted for over one-quarter of Central Gwinnett’s total offense, which was held to just 15 yards on 15 rushes and 233 yards on 43 pass attempts. Senior cornerback Caron Anderson also hauled in an interception for the Eagles.
“We knew we were going to get challenged with an aerial attack, and it was really good to see the secondary, which has a lot of young guys, rise to the challenge,” Milton head coach Adam Clack said. “And of course, the best friends to the secondary is your defensive line, and it’s incredible the work they do week in and week out. While all four are very good players, what makes them special is how they work together as a unit.”
Milton’s offense was led by its rushing attack, which accounted for 327 of the Eagles’ 404 total yards.
Clack said Central Gwinnett’s defense showed an unexpected look Friday, focusing on limiting the Eagles running through the tackles. However, Milton was able to counter with its outside rushing attack.
“We came in with a variety of ways to attack the perimeter, and that really got us going,” Clack said. “I can’t praise the receivers enough for blocking to get that edge sealed, and the offensive line and tight ends were great when we called for getting to the edge. Except for a few drives where we had a negative play or penalties, we moved the ball effectively all night.”
Sophomore running back Jordan McDonald led the Eagles with 114 yards rushing with touchdown runs of 60 and 2 yards, both coming in the fourth quarter. Ahmad Junearick had 32 yards rushing and 20 yards receiving with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Will Maranich had 30 yards on the ground with a score.
Quarterback Devin Farrell racked up 96 yards rushing and was 11-15 passing for 77 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Farrell threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jack Rhodes on the Eagles’ opening possession, and Maranich’s 25-yard score put Milton up 14-0 midway through the second.
Central Gwinnett responded with their touchdown play, but Junearick scored with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Eagles a two-score lead into the half.
Farrell connected with Matthew Evert for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter and McDonald added his two rushing scores in the fourth.
Milton’s win was their sixth straight following a 16-7 loss to Parkview in the Eagles’ final non-region game. Since then, Clack said the team has been laser-focused and has found its identity.
“After the Parkview game and into that bye week, I really started to see a team understand who they were,” Clack said. “I just sent out a message to the guys telling them how proud I am of them, their growth and commitment to stay locked into this journey coming off the type of year we had last year. When you are the favorite in six games, it’s easy to look ahead and start thinking you have something figured out, but this team has been so disciplined over the last six weeks.”
Milton’s win over the Black Knights sets up a marquee showdown Friday in the Eagles Nest where the defending state champs will host Marietta (9-2) in a battle of top-10 ranked teams.
“Just calling it like it is, they are probably one of the most talented teams that I’ve ever seen,” Clack said. “They have a multitude of weapons on offense, very talented guys on defense and they are very fast. That’s going to challenge us in so many ways. But what I love about this sport is football is not just won by talented people, it is won by complete teams. We will be able to test our mettle against the best, and I am elated to be in this position to put our best product out there, have our best week of work ever and let it fly on Friday night.”