ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Milton extended two significant streaks Friday night.
With their 35-20 win, the Eagles increased their number of consecutive region wins to 14 and their consecutive victories over rival Alpharetta to five.
It was the Region 5-7A opener for both squads.
The matchup was the first in-region meeting of the teams since 2011 with Alpharetta’s move to Class 7A this season.
The rivals traded blows through the first half, but a strong performance from Milton’s defense and plenty of offensive firepower allowed the Eagles to take control in the second half.
“That’s definitely a heck of a way to open up region play with a crosstown rival,” Milton head coach Adam Clack said. “With losing the summer and starting late, it still feels early in the season, even though we have a few games under our belt. We are still trying to catch our stride, but I felt like things came together for us tonight.”
Milton (4-1, 1-0) entered having surrendered just 8.8 points per contest, the lowest average in all of Class 7A. Though Alpharetta (1-3, 0-1) found paydirt three times in the first half, Clack said his team’s defensive performance was impressive.
“We hadn’t been in that situation much, giving up scores, but if you look closer, some of it was big penalties, a heck of a throw and catch by [Alpharetta quarterback Ben Guthrie], and sometimes you can’t defend the perfect play,” Clack said.
Alpharetta struck on their first drive. A late hit call on Milton and a third-down conversion by Alpharetta set up a 2-yard touchdown rush from sophomore Jake Gil.
Milton responded quickly though, building a 21-7 lead with three unanswered scores.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, Milton appeared to set up a screen pass to running back Jordan McDonald, but instead, quarterback Devin Farrell connected with a wide-open LT Overton, the top sophomore defensive prospect in the nation, for a touchdown.
“[Overton] is so gifted of an athlete…and his football IQ is off the charts,” Clack said. “We wanted to run some multiple tight end sets, and he is a threat in the pass game.”
The Eagles took the lead for good early in the second quarter with the first of Jordan McDonald’s three touchdown runs. Clack said it was “huge” to have McDonald, who missed the McEachern game, back from injury.
Farrell recorded his second touchdown of the night on Milton’s next possession midway though the second. The junior hit tight end Jack Nickel with a 49-yard pass before avoiding pressure to rush the ball in from 18-yards out.
“He really gives the offense that explosive capability,” Clack said.
Milton gave up free real estate on Alpharetta’s ensuing drive with facemask and pass interference penalties. Alpharetta took advantage, ultimately converting a fourth-and-3 to set up an 8-yard touchdown run from Guthrie.
The Raiders scored again before the half on a perfect pitch-and-catch from Guthrie to Matteo Carriere down the sideline. However, a botched PAT play kept Milton in the lead, 21-20.
Alpharetta’s two scores late in the first half gave them momentum coming out of the locker room, but Milton’s defense turned the tide when play resumed.
Milton cornerback Bryce Thornton intercepted Guthrie on Alpharetta’s opening possession of the second half, the first of two picks for the sophomore, to set up McDonald’s second rushing score of the game, pushing the margin to 28-20.
“[The secondary] played well,” Clack said. “There were a lot of 50/50 and deeper balls. There was a lot of space to cover and [Thornton] was always in the right spot. I talked to Bryce after the game about how proud I was of him. He got beat early, and the average person might let that get into their feelings a little bit, but he came out in the second half and played incredibly.”
Milton’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Raiders’ next drive, and Farrell again showed his rushing ability with two evasive rushes to set up McDonald’s third touchdown late in the third quarter.
Alpharetta had three more possession on the night, but two ended with a turnover on downs, and Thornton’s second pick in the final minute iced the game.
With Friday’s region and rivalry win, Clack is pleased with where his team stands at the midseason.
“The defense came out early and they have been really hot and have been super impressive,” he said. “They can be trouble for any offense. With the offense, things should start clicking by the time you get into region play, and I think we were at that point tonight. We’re ascending.”
Both teams continue region play Oct. 23 against Cherokee County teams. The Eagles return home to play Etowah, while Alpharetta will be on the road against Woodstock.