By Zach Shugan
MILTON, Ga. — Devin Farrell watched from the sideline when Milton made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2020.
A foot injury kept the Eagles quarterback out of the game, which they won 17-9 over Archer. He played the next week in their quarterfinals matchup with Lowndes, but it was clear the fleet-footed quarterback wasn’t himself as the team’s season came to an end with a 23-13 loss.
This year in Milton’s second-round playoff game, nothing — and nobody — could hold Farrell and the Eagles down. The senior rushed for 196 yards and one touchdown and passed for 105 yards and one touchdown, as Milton handled the visiting Marietta Blue Devils, 38-21.
“It felt good coming out in the playoffs being healthy,” Farrell said. “Glory to God.”
It wasn’t just Farrell who ran all over Marietta. In fact, the Virginia Tech commit didn’t even lead the team in rushing despite his hefty performance. Senior running back Jordan McDonald finished with a team-high 241 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
Milton head coach Adam Clack lauded the offensive line and tight ends — players like Mo Clipper, Ben Hartman, Kayden Richardson, Tyhler Williams, Brandon Best, Trey Harding, Jack Nickel and Elliott Meyer — for the work they did up front against Marietta and opposing defenses all season.
“[Farrell and McDoanld] are special players, but they don’t do what they do without those five guys getting after it, and the two tight ends we have in there who are like six and seven offensive linemen on the field at the same time. We know in games when it matters the most, we’re going to go down swinging with the strength of our team, and it’s those guys up front.”
In addition to the offensive explosion led by its rushing attack, Milton’s defense kept Marietta in check most of the night and came away with four turnovers. The Eagles forced and recovered two fumbles, and Owen Pauley and Bryce Thornton both had an interception.
“[Marietta’s] a team that is playing really, really well right now,” Clack said. “That’s a top-eight team in the state … I love that we were going after the football because we knew turnovers were something we wanted to do.”
A little over one minute into the game, McDonald put Milton on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run after breaking free for an 82-yard gain on the previous play.
The Eagles reached the end zone twice more (Farrell to Nickel 2-yd pass, McDonald 3-yd run) before Marietta scored its first points of the game on a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. A 25-yard field goal by Felipe Mota as time expired put Milton up 24-7 over Marietta at halftime.
After the Blue Devils scored on the opening drive of the second half to make it 24-14, Farrell gave the Eagles some breathing room with an 18-yard touchdown run. Down 31-14, Marietta scored again on another touchdown pass from Tyler Hughes to Kamryn Perry.
Milton fed McDonald the ball down the stretch and let the 6-foot-1, 220-pound UCF commit go to work. His 2-yard touchdown run with 3:38 left on the clock would be the final score of the game.
The Eagles (11-1) will appear in the quarterfinal round for the second year in a row and third time in four years, as Mill Creek (11-1) will come to town the day after Thanksgiving. The Hawks’ only loss this season came at the hands of Collins Hill, the No. 1-ranked team in the state.
“I know I don’t have to worry about the guys feeling like they’ve made it or arrived or something like that because we fully expected to be here,” Clack said. “We fully expected to get to the quarters and keep going, so I know that will be an advantage. But at the end of the day, that ball is going to kick and two great teams are going to square off.”