Milford Mill blows 19-point lead, falls in final seconds to Linganore in 3A state football title game (VIDEO HERE!!)


by Derek Toney

In the minutes following Milford Mill Academy’s loss in the Class 3A state football final Thursday evening, several Miller players cried on the bench. Others made an excoriating long walk to the locker room. A couple of knelt on the field with their head bowed.

What started as a coronation, 30 years in the making, became a nightmare for the No. 8 Millers, who dropped a 28-27 decision to Frederick County’s Linganore at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Davon Butler’s two-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds remaining in regulation was the difference for the Lancers (12-2 overall), who won their sixth state football title and first since 2009 (3A). Butler finished with 177 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The wait continues for Milford Mill (12-2), which had a 19-point lead disintegrate under the weight of penalties, missed tackles, missed opportunities and close calls Thursday before a statewide television audience. Milford Mill’s season started and ended with a loss to a Frederick County school.

“Hats off to Coach Conner and the Lancers,” said Millers coach Reggie White, whose team lost to Tuscarora. “Great game, great second half adjustments on their part. I think they put 21 points in the second half. “

Dominated by Milford Mill’s defense for the most of the first half, Linganore scored on four of its last five possessions. The Lancers had nearly 300 yards of offense in the second half.

Conner said Linganore upped the tempo.

“We felt like offensively if we could create a fast pace, that was going to benefit Linganore High,” said Conner. “We spent a lot of time on conditioning. Our kids are in shape and pretty strong, so going fast we felt we could tire them out. They’re trying to set their defense based on all these formations and the quick snap and pace of the game was something we felt we could dictate.”

Trailing 19-7 late in the third quarter, Lancer tight end Joe Kolick broke open downfield and Ryan Leyh found him for a 60-yard touchdown, bringing Linganore within 19-14. After a Milford Mill three-and-out, the Lancers went 60 yards in five plays as Butler, who carried four straight times after a pass interference call on Milford Mill started the drive, crossed the goal line from 15 yards for the lead with 5:24 left in regulation.

The Millers, whose offense sputtered after an early explosion, regained their footing. Getting the ball out quick to its playmakers, Milford Mill covered 82 yards in six plays as junior Desmond Shell scored from nine yards out with 4:02 left. Shell’s two-point conversion made it 27-22.

“I told the team on the sidelines we’ve been down a lot of times this season and we came back,” said Milford Mill senior quarterback Brandon Savage. “We fought hard, but this time, we didn’t come out with the outcome we expected.”

Instead, Milford Mill was left to think what might have been on Linganore’s championship-winning drive. On 4th-and-9, Leyh somehow slipped out of harm’s way for 11 yards. The next play, Milford Mill was called for pass interference, moving the ball to Milford Mill’s 41.

On 4th-and-1 from the Millers’ 32, Linganore’s Ben Musselman ran into a pile. The referees measured and the Lancers got the 1st down by the nose of the football.

Butler barreled into the end zone with 14 seconds remaining, capping a 15-play, 68-yard drive. The Millers got possession at their 36 with 10 seconds left after Troy Scott’s kickoff return.

Shell converted a Savage pass into a 13-yard gain, leaving four seconds left. Savage went back to the ultra-dangerous Shell, who was unable to get away from a swarm of Linganore defenders, ending the match.

In its first state final since Ronald Reagan was President, Milford Mill was impressive early. The Millers went 68 yards in seven plays on their second drive as Shell reversed field, got a nice crack-back block and went down the sideline for a 17-yard touchdown score.

After denying Linganore on 4th down, Savage connected with Isaiah Hardy for a 45-yard play. Three plays later, Savage threw a 19-yard pass to freshman Rishon Holmes, extending the Millers lead to 13-0.

It was 19-0 after Scott broke into the open for a 24-yard score with 8:10 left in the second quarter. After gaining 27 yards over 31 plays after a 27-yard pass play on its first offensive play, Linganore started taxing Milford Mill’s defense.

Leyh, who missed on his prior 10 attempts, went 3-of-4 for 46 yards and Butler went for nine yards on 3rd and 6. Butler got the Lancers on the board with a six-yard run with 48 seconds left in the first half.

“I don’t know if I can talk them into believing…it gave us a shot to be close,” said Conner. “When it was 19-14, we were pretty excited.”

“Coach White pointed out [at halftime] the fact that their coach gave them a good speech and they was going to come out fired up,” said Millers senior wide receiver/defensive back Ugo Obasi. “Nobody was going to hand us anything, so they came out fired up and we came out like we had a 19-0 lead.”

The Millers finished with 414 yards as Shell rushed for 117 yards and added six recpetions for 49 yards. Savage, a transfer from Mount St. Joseph, completed 17-of-24 for 231 yards.

Most of Milford Mill’s supporters remained in the stands and cheered as White accepted the state runner-up trophy from principal Kyria Joseph. White was a star linemen on the Millers’ 1987 team that won the Class C (now 1A) championship.

After a devastating blow Thursday, White said the Millers have extra motivation for 2018.

“I hope that at the end of the day, we shed some great light on Milford Mill. It’s not about me. It’s not about these players. I mean they did what they did for themselves, but I’m just saying I love my school,” said White. “I’m just hoping this sheds a new light that we can bang with the big boys. We can do it right. It’s not all bad over there.”

CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

AT NAVY-MARINE CORPS STADIUM

LINGANORE 28, NO. 8 MILFORD MILL ACADEMY 27

LINGANORE 0 7 7 14 – 28

MILFORD MILL 13 6 0 8 – 27

FIRST QUARTER

MILFORD MILL – Shell 17 run (Downs kick)

MILFORD MILL – Holmes 17 pass from Savage (kick failed)

SECOND QUARTER

MILFORD MILL – Scott 24 run (run failed)

LINGANORE – Butler 6 run (Formulak kick)

THIRD QUARTER

LINGANORE – Kolick 69 pass from Leyh (Formulak kick)

LINGANORE – Butler 15 run (Leyh run)

FOURTH QUARTER

MILFORD MILL – Shell 9 run (Shell run)

LINGANORE – Butler 2 run (run failed)