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Milton High football wins Super Bowl with big finish

FOXBORO — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

And, wow, did the Milton High football team finish with a bang on Thursday night.

Down by 14 points in the first quarter, the Wildcats roared to life and ran away from Bay State Conference rival Walpole to win the Division 3 Super Bowl, 42-21, at Gillette Stadium.

The win gave Milton its first-ever crown (either in the current state-tournament format or in the old EMass playoff system) and eased some of the sting of last year’s loss to Wakefield in the title game here — a defeat that cost Milton a perfect season. The Wildcats appeared to be headed for more disappointment when No. 4 Walpole (9-4) raced out to an early lead, but Milton had all the answers after that.

“Going down 14-0 was tough, but we had to keep our heads up,” said senior quarterback Patrick Miller, who threw for 148 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to sophomore receiver Ronan Sammon. “Obviously, it wasn’t going to be easy because (Walpole is) a great football team. But our defense rallied back; they really brought the energy. And the offense just (ran) away with it.”

The title was unlikely, in the sense that Milton was clobbered by graduation losses after last year’s 11-1 campaign, losing star QB Owen McHugh, standout running back Jack Finnegan and the top five receivers from a potent offense.

“It means everything,” running back Nathan Ehui said of shrugging off the departures. “I don’t think anyone thought we were going to be here today, but we proved them all wrong. And that’s everything to us.”

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“It’s awesome,” agreed Miller, who set a new single-season program record with 33 TD passes, breaking McHugh’s record of 31 set last year. “It’s been a dream of mine ever since walking off this field last year losing. It was a sour taste in our mouths. It feels awesome to get that ring.”

Ehui, like Miller a first-year senior starter, rushed 29 times for 135 yards, Harrison Hinckle had a 42-yard pick-six to complete a 21-point second-quarter uprising, and Milton’s defense overall staged a huge turnaround to avenge a 42-23 regular-season loss to Walpole on Oct. 13.

“I don’t how good we are, but when we play our ‘A’ game we’re really good,” Milton coach Steve Dembowski said.

The third-seeded Wildcats (9-4) had a bit of an up-and-down year as the loss to Walpole kicked off a three-game losing streak. Milton recovered to win its first three playoff games and book a return trip to Gillette but then stumbled on Thanksgiving, flat-lining in a 33-19 loss to Braintree.

“We’ve had games where we just made some mistakes,” Dembowski said. “And we had that three-game losing streak and then we really laid an egg against Braintree emotionally; we didn’t really show up, we were just going through the motions. I was really nervous whether we could get (our edge) back for this game.”

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Things looked bleak early when Walpole’s Logan Keyes opened the scoring on a 1-yard run, and QB Noah Mackenzie hit Kamari Hughes (5 catches, 135 yards) with a perfectly executed 68-yard TD bomb for a 14-0 lead with 4:58 left in the first quarter.

Miller then went to work, throwing TD passes to Sammon (11 yards), William Renz (4 yards) and Sammon again (24 yards) to push Milton ahead, 21-14. That last strike came with 1:47 left in the first half, but the Wildcats weren’t finished. Just 16 seconds later, Miller deflected a pass in the right flat, and Hinckle ran it back for a score to make it 28-14.

“It was a great feeling,” Miller (16 of 26 passing) said of the defensive play. “I started at DB last year but I hadn’t played a snap (on defense this year) until today. I saw the ball coming my way. I decided to make a play, and one of my closest friends, Harrison Hinckle, made (the pick). That’s what he does.”

“Shout-out (to) Patrick Miller, he hit that up,” Hinckle said. “It’s his guy, he hits it up, I’m just there. Luckily, I get the pick and take it home.”

Miller’s final TD pass — a 27-yarder to Hinckle — came early in the fourth quarter. Luke Hartford added a late 10-yard TD run as Milton answered Walpole’s early gut-punch with six straight TDs before Walpole punched in a last-minute TD, Mackenzie hitting Matthew St. Cyr with a 4-yard scoring pass.

Sammon finished with six catches for 75 yards, giving him 72 receptions for 1,058 yards on the season. He led the team in both categories, as well as in TDs with 14.

“That kid’s a problem, man,” Miller said. “I love that kid to death. He’s a baller. I don’t know what his future holds. But whatever (college) program picks him up, he’s going to be special.”

Along with Hinckle’s pick-six, linebacker Ben Caledonia had a fumble recovery to set up the tying touchdown. And Aidan Rowley kicked six PATs (making him 43 of 48 on the season).

The win was particularly sweet for Dembowski, whose wife Kristin had been hospitalized back in September after what should have been a routine medical procedure went awry. She was in attendance Thursday night — her first game of the season.

“I’ve missed 10 practices this year, including yesterday to be with my family and with her during this time when she’s still recovering,” Dembowski said. “This is the first game she’s been able to come to. And thank-you to the MIAA for allowing her to be in the press box to watch. It’s been really hard. The games we lost were when I wasn’t really there. I got to the Taunton game after kickoff.”

The Taunton loss was part of that three-game slide that threatened to derail Milton’s season after a promising 5-0 start. Instead, it was just a bump in the road to the title.

Asked if he had ever lost faith during the losing streak, Hinckle said, “No. You learn from it and then (down the road) it helps like it did today. We went down and we still came back. That’s what our team didn’t have last year, we didn’t have any adversity during the regular season. It helped to have adversity.

“We lose three straight and you just learn from it. You go down 14 here and you know what it’s like to be down and you handle it and come out with a win.”

2023-12-01 05:47:57
#Milton #High #football #wins #MIAA #Super #Bowl

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