When it mattered most, the Milton Eagles’ defense came through, as it had all night, clinching the game in the final seconds with an interception in the end zone to best the Roswell Hornets and leave Ray Manus Stadium with a 16-12 road win.
The Hornets faced fourth-and-8 from the Milton 19 with 26 seconds left when Hornets quarterback Ethan Roberts rolled to his right to avoid a sack, bought some time and then threw across his shoulder into the end zone. That’s when Milton’s Jack Rhodes stepped in front of the pass for the pick and returned it 42 yards to end the game.
It was a fitting end for the Eagles (2-2), Class AAAAAAA’s defending champions and the No. 7-ranked team. The defense recorded two key turnover-on-downs and a timely sack to hold onto their lead, and they held the Hornets (2-1, unranked in AAAAAAA) scoreless through the first three quarters.
“We just stuck to our keys all night and played Milton defense,” Rhodes said. “We rammed the ball and tackled all (freaking) night, and we kept on making them line it up again and again. Eventually, we just kept stopping them and got that (win).”
Milton opened the scoring in the first quarter after the Hornets muffed a punt, and the Eagles recovered on the 26. Three plays later, Jason Aussin drilled a 45-yard field goal with 0:54 left in the quarter.
The Eagles would tack on the game’s first touchdown on their next possession, with Ahmad Junearick rushing 29 yards for the score. On the play, he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage before cutting across the field and into the end zone. Two plays earlier, the Hornets had quarterback Devin Farrell stopped in the backfield before he broke three tackles for a 14 yard gain to get the Eagles into Roswell territory.
The score put Milton up 10-0 with 9:57 left in the second quarter, and that score would hold until halftime.
The Hornets opened the second half with a 13-play drive that chewed 5:30 of clock and spanned 66 yards, but it ended in a turnover on downs when the Eagles stopped the Hornets short on a pass play on fourth-and-10. On the previous play, Jonathan Pitman burst through the line for a monster sack, resulting in a six-yard loss.
The first play of the fourth quarter was the Hornets’ first score, a 20-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to Jacob Jarrett. However, they’d miss the extra point attempt.
Milton responded immediately, using five plays to move 66 yards, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Junearick. The score was set up by Farrell’s 40-yard run the play before. The Eagles would also miss the point after, making it 16-6 with 9:17 left.
The Eagles would force another turnover-on-downs on the Hornets’ next possession, but they’d fumble the ball right back to Roswell two plays later at the Milton 24. Four plays into the ensuing drive, with the Hornets facing fourth-and-6, Roberts threw a pass as he was being sacked, and Marquis Willis caught it, avoided a tackle and skirted the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Hornets lined up for a 2-point conversion but then thought better of it, instead taking a delay of game. They’d bobble the snap on the extra point attempt, leaving the score at its final margin with 4:39 left.
The Eagles were led by Farrell’s 71 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Junearick had 36 yards and the two scores on 10 carries. They’ll host No. 8 Parkview next week in a non-region contest.
The Hornets were led by Roberts, who was 18-of-34 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Willis had four catches for 61 yards and a score, and John Copenhaver had seven catches for 90 yards. They play Wheeler next week in non-league play.
It was the 65th meeting between Fulton county’s oldest schools, a rivalry that dates back to 1950. Roswell leads the all-time series, 38-25.
Milton 3 7 0 6 — 16
Roswell 0 0 0 12 — 12
M — Jason Aussin 45 FG
M — Ahmad Junearick (Aussin kick)
R — Jacob Jarrett 20 pass from Ethan Roberts (kick failed)
M — Junearick 1 run (kick failed)
R — Marquis Willis 24 pass from Roberts (kick failed)
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