By Zach Shugan
ROSWELL, Ga. — In the first 66 meetings between Milton and Roswell, the two teams never met while both ranked in the top 10. That changed in 2021, with the Eagles ranked No. 4 and Hornets at No. 8 in Class 7A entering their matchup. On top of that, both teams came into the game unbeaten in region play, so the winner would take over sole possession of first place in the Reg. 5-7A standings.
Suffice to say, much more than bragging rights were on the line when the bitter rivals lined up Friday night at Roswell’s Ray Manus Stadium. By night’s end, No. 4 Milton left with a 44-34 victory over No. 8 Roswell in a game which the Eagles never trailed and led by as many 25 points in the fourth quarter.
The win marked Milton’s third in a row over Roswell and fourth in Adam Clack’s five years as the team’s head coach. Plus, the Eagles put themselves in control of their playoff destiny with two games remaining in the 2021 regular season.
“We knew we couldn’t win the region tonight, but we sure could lose it,” Clack said. “Winning the region is so important for your position in the bracket and the ability to have home-field advantage [in the playoffs].”
Jordan McDonald made a triumphant return after missing Milton’s most recent game with an injury before a bye last week. The senior running back left his handprints all over the Eagles’ win, carrying the ball 10 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to catching one touchdown and throwing another. Call it a touchdown trifecta.
Milton led 23-13 at halftime behind two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown by McDonald, as well as a safety forced by the Eagles’ defense. Milton started the second half with two unanswered touchdowns, a 20-yard run by Brooks Bortle and a 3-yard pass from McDonald to Jack Nickle, to open a 24-point lead on Roswell.
The Hornets turned things around in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns to close the gap, but it was too late to stop Milton from dropping them to second in the region.
Roswell quarterback Robbie Roper had a solid night statistically despite constant pressure from Milton’s defense not giving him much time or space to throw the ball. The uncommitted senior completed 25 of 45 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns, and he did so while spreading the ball around. Seven different Hornets finished with three or more receptions, led by Chris Elko with five catches for 81 yards. Elko also ran for two touchdowns.
“Overall it was three and a half quarters of really good football,” Clack said. “They’re a very good team. They came in with some hype for good reason. I don’t think anybody else in the region can beat them. All in all, I’m really super proud of my guys for staying locked in and controlling themselves.”
Milton (7-1, 3-0) returns home for its final two games of the regular season against Woodstock (0-8, 0-3) and Cherokee (5-4, 3-1).
Roswell (6-2, 2-1) will be on the road at Alpharetta (2-6, 1-2) and Woodstock to close out the regular season.