For an affluent horse town on the northern edge of Fulton County, Milton threw a wild party Wednesday night.
Police lights blared, crowds clamored, the beer flowed as the 12-year-old city celebrated its first state championship football victory.
And they got there in spectacular fashion, by besting south Georgia’s Colquitt High School — the 21-point favorite — to create maybe the biggest upset in the history of Class AAAAAAA football. Colquitt was undefeated and ranked as a top-five team in the nation.
“This is probably the crowning achievement for Milton High School,” said Mark Artis, whose son played Wednesday night.
Artis was one of the maybe 100 people packed into the Olde Blind Dog, a pub less than a mile from the school that is a go-to for parents.
“It was a mess,” he said. “It was incredible.”
Samantha Gillis, general manager of the pub, said the packed house crowd-surfed the trophy around the bar, some taking the chance to give it a kiss.
“It was like a mini-St. Patrick’s Day,” she said.
Gillis declined to answer when asked how late they were open, only saying: “We were there as long as our community needed us.”
Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood also stopped by the bar.
When asked for a comment Thursday, he said: “We’ve seen the excitement for this team building week after week ... We couldn’t be more proud of Milton High School!”
Gary Sylvestri, school athletic director, said it was their destiny to beat powerhouse Colquitt. He knows it sounds silly.
“We shocked the world, but we were never shocked, and I say that humbly,” he said.
Milton usually doesn’t make much noise, save for when the mayor asked the Milton Equestrian Committee to work with state legislators to pass a bill addressing how fireworks can be a danger to horses and other livestock.
Sylvestri said when the bus full of victorious players pulled back up to the school Wednesday night, the parking lot was packed like class was in session. There was a police escort and throngs of people cheering.
“This community will not sleep for a while, and they deserve it because they backed us 100 percent,” Sylvestri said.
Cristina Crays and her husband John opened the Chick-fil-A at Avalon in April 2017 and months later became platinum sponsors of the football program, meaning they contributed $10,000 to support the home team.
Their way of helping is donating chicken sandwiches for the program to sell during games.
Crays thinks the upset win will help get the word out about the city.
“It’s going to bring them some recognition, maybe people who didn’t know anything about Milton will know,” she said.
Colby Leonard, president of the Milton Touchdown Club booster program, said he knows how people viewed what one study called the wealthiest city in Georgia: “We were looked upon as a group of kids and community that was soft and that things were given to them, and for these boys to show that that absolutely isn’t true ... is great for our community.”
He said that when Milton showed up to play Colquitt in 2014, they thought “that we were going to show up with our Starbucks in hand.”
On Wednesday, he said, Milton alone sold tickets 4,300 tickets and had some folks walk up.
He said he was happy they were all there to see the upset. Leonard said Colquitt had plans to steamroll Milton and earn an invite to play for a national title in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Arizona.
“There is no question that everybody outside of Milton didn’t give us a shot. And the kids thrived on that.”
He said that was even more obvious when, after the huge win, 60 to 70 football players packed his basement to sing “We Are the Champions” before he went to sleep at 7 a.m.
Milton High Principal Brian Jones said Thursday that his school has won many state championships, but “this one is just special ... we’re not known for football.”
He said this has a chance to change the culture of his school, something he says he has to keep in mind.
“If they have the means to move into the area, you’re going to see people contacting the coach,” Jones said. “They have to pay their dues like everybody else.”
A native of New Jersey, Jones said it took a while for him to grasp the South’s relationship with high school football.
“The one thing I never really understood ... you just see how much football drives a culture, and I had to wrap my head around that.”
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