BYFIELD, Mass. -- Two words came to mind Saturday: old school.
Two physical, run-first teams lined up across from each other on a muddy field. Each team knew what the other liked to do and neither team deviated from that plan unless it absolutely had to. One team was looking to avenge a late-season loss to the other from the previous season. In the end, the visiting team won. Milton Academy defeated the previously-undefeated Governor’s Academy for the second year in a row, this time 22-6.
“What I told the kids is that I want to be able to say we’re the best team in the league when this thing is all said and done,” said Milton Academy coach Kevin MacDonald. “Of course we have to get by these guys to do that. We beat these guys big last year (35-14) so I know they had revenge on their mind. We knew we had to step it up and play great football today. They’re so tough and so physical. It’s always good to beat the best and they’ve been the best team in the ISL the last three years.”
Midway through the first quarter, Gov’s (5-1) faced a fourth down from its own 37. The punter, William Dwyer, was not able to field the snap cleanly and fumbled the ball away at his own 22. On the first play of Milton’s (4-2) offensive possession, sophomore Michael Silva (63 yards rushing, 73 receiving yards, 68 yards passing, 3 total TD) took a handoff and ran off left tackle away from the defense for a 22-yard touchdown.
He made his presence felt again in the second when quarterback James Fadule (3-for-7, 120 yards, TD) fed him a short swing pass that he took 73 yards down the Governor’s Academy sideline. The Mustangs had a 12-0 lead with 2:19 to go in the half.
“This was a huge game,” said Silva. “We knew we were coming out onto this field and we just wanted to give it our all every play. This win was huge for us.”
Gov’s ran an effective two-minute drill and got the ball into enemy territory with less than a minute left. A Milton pass interference penalty put the ball at the 20. On the next play from scrimmage, Seth Harrell scrambled in the pocket under duress and got a pass off to the middle of the endzone. In a stroke of luck, the ball went over the outstretched hands of a Gov’s receiver and landed in Zach Coffey’s arms for the touchdown.
The Mustangs took a 12-6 lead into halftime. After a back-and-forth third, Justin Yoon nailed a 28-yard field goal to make it a two-score game.
Later in the quarter, Milton had the ball and Gov’s coach Jim O’Leary knew he had to start using his timeouts to stop the clock. Rather than run three times and punt the ball away, MacDonald felt it was a good time to call for some gadgetry. Fadule gave the ball to Silva on a sweep to the right. The cornerback pinched down to set the edge, anticipating Silva cutting up field at some point. Instead, he pulled up and heaved the ball to a streaking Domenic Cozier for a 68-yard touchdown.
“We practiced that yesterday and that was like, the one trick play we had,” said the sophomore. “I just gave it my all. I bombed it as far as I could. I took a tough shot, but I just had to get the ball out. I saw him wide open and just bombed it. All I’m hearing was it was a horrible throw, but we scored so that’s all that matters.”
Gov’s turned the ball over on downs on its next possession. Milton ran out the clock, giving the home team its first loss of the season.
— For the last four years, Governor’s Academy has been at the top of the Independent School League. Two years ago, it had an undefeated season. In its quest for a repeat last season, it ran into this same Milton team. Even though it is still in line to go to a Bowl at the end of the season, losing to the same team twice stings, especially for a team not used to losing.
“They have a great coaching staff, they prepare their guys really well,” said O’Leary. “I think they’re tough kids. Milton is always tough. Gov’s and Milton play that same hard-nosed football, so hat’s off to Coach Mac and his staff. Their guys really came to play. They deserved it today.”
— The rain that hit the region earlier in the week saturated the field to such a degree that as the game wore on, the players had difficulty planting and cutting when they tried to change direction. By the time the game was over, the area between the hash marks was so torn up that much of the grass was replaced by mud. Both special teams units were effected by the conditions, causing both teams opportunities at much-needed points.
After Milton Academy’s first quarter touchdown, Notre Dame commit Justin Yoon lined up for the extra point. The normally-automatic senior made solid contact with the football, but it sailed left of the upright.
With his kicker apprehensive of his footing and seeing an opportunity to get back that lost point, MacDonald decided to go for two after Milton’s second quarter touchdown. Dominic Cozier took the jet sweep to the right and was swallowed up by the defense. The Mustangs had a two-score lead, which was cut in half when Harrell hit Zach Coffey with a touchdown pass just before halftime.
Yoon spent all of the 15-minute halftime practicing kicks, trying to get a better feel for the surface. He redeemed himself in the fourth quarter when he nailed a 28-yard field goal on the same side of the field he missed on earlier to put his team up by two scores.
“I don’t think Justin really felt good after that first kick,” said MacDonald. “He slipped, and I don’t think he was that excited about kicking a second one. We gauged that and we went for two. With the field goal later, we were in better turf. We weren’t right in the muck of the three-yard line. If anything, believe it or not the conditions seemed to get better as the game went on because we had the sun evaporating a little bit of that water, but it was still awful. We were worried coming into the game this was going to be the type of weather they love.”
Governor’s Academy had its share of problems with the surface as well. The team is notorious for its physical, smashmouth style of play with a heavy emphasis on its running game and playing defense. However, with players struggling to find their footing, it was forced to alter its offensive playbook.
“We run the ball a lot and we’ve got some great receivers,” said O’Leary. “The problem was getting the ball to the quarterback in the mud and letting him throw the ball. At times we said it’s too hard to throw it, it was that bad out there. So now not only can you not run, but the passing game is not so great either.”