North Forsyth was unable to contain Milton as the Eagles racked up four touchdowns on plays over 50 yards in route to a 49-17 win at the Eagle’s Nest.
“You got to prevent the big plays,” North Forsyth coach Robert Craft said. “You can’t give up explosive plays and sometimes that comes from a busted coverage or missed tackles. I think we had a combination of both tonight.”
Milton (8-2, 4-1 Region 5-7A) scored on its third play from scrimmage on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Yates (9-for-11, 208 yards, 3 TDs) to Syaire Waters (2 catches, 70 yards, TD). Milton’s next drive was also three plays long, ending in a 61-yard touchdown run by Yates (3 carries, 109 yards, 2 TDs).
The Eagles only ran six plays in the first quarter but still led the Raiders 14-3.
North (5-5, 2-3) was able to move the ball downfield early with the help of two consecutive muffed punt returns by Milton on North’s first two drives, but the Raiders had to settle for a 19-yard field goal after having first-and-goal from the four-yard line on their first possession.
“Just got to finish a little better,” Craft said. “Against a good football team, when you get a chance to get a turnover like that, you don’t get more opportunities, you only get few, so you really have to capitalize.”
North was able to capitalize, however, on their second possession when quarterback Ben Bales (20-for-31, 165 yards, TD, 2 INTs) hit receiver Tristan Howard (4 catches, 49 yards, TD) across the middle for a 7-yard touchdown completion, but the defense just couldn’t stop the Eagles.
Milton’s four possessions in the first half yielded four touchdowns, the last of which was a 57-yard touchdown pass from Yates to running back Solomon Vanhorse (2 catches, 74 yards, TD). The Raiders moved the ball on their first half possessions but had to settle for two field goal attempts from inside the five-yard line, including a 21-yard miss late in the second quarter.
Turnovers plagued North in the second half, allowing Milton to pull away.
“In the second half, we just made some mistakes that you can’t make,” Craft said.
The Raiders’ first two possession in the second quarter ended in interceptions, the second of which was returned 45-yards for a touchdown.
In between the two picks, Milton had a two-play drive that started from their own 12-yard line. A 34-yard run by Vanhorse (11 carries, 78 yards) followed by a 54-yard touchdown run by Yates and the Eagles were in the end zone yet again.
Of the Eagles seven possessions, the only one that didn’t end in a touchdown was because the game had ended before they could score.
The Raiders had almost 20 minutes more possession time than the Eagles (33:32 to 14:28), but Milton was able to gain 420 yards of offense on just 34 plays (12.35 yards-per-play). It took North 75 plays to gain 346 yards.
Bales finished the game for North with a one-yard touchdown run and, despite the loss, the Raiders will be heading to the state playoffs for the first time since 2013. They’ll face North Gwinnett, the top seed out of Region 6-7A.
“The message I told those guys in (the locker room) is that the 32 teams advance and they’re all putting this behind them,” Craft said. “The 10 games were all to get us ready for next week, so we’re excited about the opportunity. We haven’t been in the playoffs for four years, so our guys have earned the chance.
“I just told them, ‘You’re in the dance, now what are you going to go do with it?’”