Milton’s Josh Edwards scored on an 11-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter, and the Eagles withstood two final Colquitt County possessions to beat the top-ranked Packers 14-13 in the Class AAAAAAA championship game Wednesday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The victory gave Milton (13-2) its first state title in the history of the program, which began in 1950. The Eagles also became the first team from outside of Gwinnett County or Region 1 to win a championship in the highest classification since Roswell in 2006 and the first to win one outright since Southwest DeKalb in 1995.
“It’s just the culmination of something that was very, very special,” Milton coach Adam Clack said. “Everybody could see that these kids had a unique belief in each other and the coaches. It’s been something they earned. They didn’t luck themselves into it. They worked day in, day out. It was a beautiful thing.”
The loss ended Colquitt County’s quest for a third state title in five seasons. It was the second consecutive runner-up finish for the Packers (14-1), who lost to North Gwinnett 19-17 on a final-play field goal in the 2017 championship game.
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Milton trailed 10-7 when it took possession at its 25-yard line with 4:59 remaining in the third quarter. The Eagles used 15 plays to go 75 yards to take the lead on Edwards’ 11-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 11:47 remaining in the game. That was one of three successful fourth-down conversions on the drive for the Eagles.
Quarterback Jordan Yates ran for 38 yards on seven carries and passed for 19 yards on the drive, but he created problems for Colquitt County’s defense all night. He was 13-of-23 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 96 yards on 25 carries.
“This in an indescribable feeling,” Yates said. “Look around. It’s amazing. It’s all them down there [he was standing on the podium], trusting the coaches, all that support. That’s how we got this done.”
Colquitt County had two more chances to try to reclaim the lead. The first drive ended with a 24-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald that cut the lead to 14-13 with 7:15 remaining. The last opportunity ended with a 4-yard pass from Jaycee Harden to Daijun Edwards on fourth-and-13 near midfield
Milton had the upper hand in almost every major offensive category, leading in total yardage (300-239), first downs (19-16) and time of possession (27:59 to 20:01). In the third quarter, Milton ran 24 offensive plays while limiting Colquitt County to four.
Milton’s Edwards finished with 45 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Jordan Cox had five receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Colquitt County got 101 yards rushing from Daijun Edwards and 46 from Ty Leggett, who was noticeably limping for much of the second half.
Milton led 7-3 midway through the second quarter and had a chance to make it a seven-point game, but Hayden Hairston’s 34-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Jay Ward and recovered by Marvion McDonald, who returned it 26 yards to the Colquitt County 39, The Packers then used eight plays to go 61 yards, the final 40 of which came on four runs by Leggett, including the final 10 for a touchdown that gave Colquitt County a 10-7 lead with 5:28 remaining in the half.
Colquitt County drove deep into Milton territory on the game’s opening possession, but an interception by Milton’s Stephen Michaels at the 1-yard line ended the threat. The Packers got the ball back four plays later, however, when Ward recovered a fumble at the 18. From there, Colquitt County got 5 yards in three plays and settled for a 30-yard field goal by Fitzgerald for a 3-0 lead.
Milton responded on its next possession when Yates threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Cox to finish off a five-play, 80-yard drive.
Milton – 7-0-0-7 – 14
Colquitt County – 3-7-0-3 – 13
C – Ryan Fitzgerald 30 field goal, 5:32
M – Jordan Cox 66 pass from Jordan Yates (Hayden Hairston kick), 3:48
C – Ty Leggett 10 run (Fitzgerald kick), 5:28
M – Josh Edwards 11 run (Hairston kick), 11:47
C – Fitzgerald 24 field goal, 7:15