Milton just beat Colquitt County in an upset that few outside of north Fulton County saw coming.
Colquitt County was 14-0, a champion as recently as 2014 and 2015, and carrying several top-five national rankings. One poll had Colquitt as high as No. 2 and expected the Packers, with another win, to be invited to the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Arizona to play for a mythical national title.
Those plans are off.
Milton - a two-loss team that had never played in a championship game - won 14-13 on Wednesday night in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the state final of Class AAAAAAA.
It was no fluke. Milton was not lucky. Milton has a quarterback committed to Georgia Tech, a defensive back committed to Clemson and all-state candidates at wide receiver, linebacker and safety aside from those marquee ACC guys. The Eagles out-gained No. 1-ranked Colquitt 300-239. The Packers were the classification’s best team on full body of work this season, but as of mid-December, Milton showed that it is as good as anybody. Remember that Colquitt needed overtime in the semifinals at home to beat Archer, a team that Milton defeated in the regular season.
An upset doesn’t mean the best team didn’t win. It just means the winner was the underdog going in. Colquitt was projected as a 21-point favorite by the computer Maxwell Ratings.
Has a bigger underdog won in the finals of the highest classification?
Milton, at No. 8, is the lowest-ranked team to win a state final in the highest lass since No. 8 Camden County in 2009, but Camden’s opponent, Northside-Warner Robins, was ranked only No. 7.
Milton is the first team to beat a No. 1-ranked team in the high-class final since Norcross beat North Gwinnett in 2013, but Norcross was ranked No. 5 and was the defending champion.
Peachtree Ridge won a state title as an unranked team in 2006 but tied No. 7 Roswell in the final. Ties are upsetting, but they aren’t upsets, certainly not that one.
In 1999, Lowndes won a state title as an unranked team, but the Vikings’ opponent was the No. 5 team, Brunswick, which came from a weak region, had never won a state title and hadn’t beaten a top-five opponent that year.
And in 1998, No. 7 Valdosta beat undefeated and No. 1-ranked McEachern 21-7. That’s close to what happened Wednesday night, but it was Valdosta, and the game was played at Valdosta. Nobody was really favored to win at Cleveland Field in those days.
There’s only one other candidate in the 72 years that the GHSA has a state tournament for the biggest schools. (The homework has been done; there is nothing comparable in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s or ‘70s. No. 6 Marietta beat No. 1 Columbus at Grant Field in 1967. That’s about it. Columbus was no Colquitt County.)
Milton’s only rival for this honor is Brookwood, a two-loss team that defeated Valdosta 45-24 in Valdosta in 1996. Valdosta was ranked No. 3 that year and was bearing down on its 22nd state title. Brookwood was ranked No. 11, as the AJC was experimenting with a top-15 in those days.
So that’s the largest rankings difference (No. 11 vs. No. 3) for an upset in the state finals in the highest class. And Brookwood, like Milton, had never won a state title to that point.
But it still wasn’t Milton-Colquitt.
Brookwood had played Valdosta in the regular season that year. Valdosta won 31-28 in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. The Wildcats scored on the last play of that game to forge ahead. As great a win as that was for Brookwood, It can’t be too shocking when a team that loses on the last play wins the rematch.
Congrats to the Milton Eagles.
Maybe the best one ever.
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