For The Daily Item
MILTON — In a game that will be remembered for its non-stop offense, it was a pair of defensive stops in the last five minutes that finally made the difference.
Jersey Shore stopped Milton’s Josh Brown for no gain on a critical fourth-down play with 4:43 left in the third quarter, and — after Logan English connected with Brody Smith for the go-ahead score 14 plays later — survived a final push by the Black Panthers in the last 39 seconds to rescue a 42-39 Heartland Athletic Conference Division I victory at Alumni Field on Friday night.
“You can’t win a game when your defense gives up 42 points,” said Black Panthers coach George Goodwin after his team fell to 5-4 and 2-3 in the HAC-I. “The defense did not rise to the occasion. They ran over us tonight.”
The Bulldogs (3-6, 2-4 HAC-I) ground out 260 yards rushing, getting 190 from slippery Utoa Agae-Naipo and 62 more from Jordan Tawney. And Shore’s junior quarterback was efficient in the face of a strong rush by Milton all night, throwing for 188 yards.
Still, Milton seemed to take control of the game in the fourth quarter when the defense did stop the Bulldogs on a fourth-down play inside the Black Panthers’ 10. Brady Chappell (223 yards passing) drove his team 91 yards in seven plays and Josh Brown (145 yards rushing and two touchdowns) burst in from eight yards and then threw a two-point conversion pass to Chappell to hand Milton a 39-35 lead with 8 minutes remaining in the game.
And the Bulldogs, who wiped away a four-game losing streak with the win, seemed to self destruct on their next possession, losing 38 yards in three plays. Brown broke a 28-yard run to the Shore 15 on the first play after the Bulldogs punted but was stopped on the key fourth-down play with just under five minutes left in the game.
Jersey Shore then converted a pair of fourth-down plays on a 13-play drive that started at midfield, the second one when English hit Smith at the goal line in the middle of three Milton defenders and then kicked the extra point for a three point lead with 39 seconds remaining.
“We never flinched on that drive,” said winning coach Tom Gravish. “Logan was hit hard on the third-down play but came right back and made a great throw to Smith for the touchdown.”
Chappell hit four passes in the closing seconds but Jayson English was stopped at the 21 as time ran out.
“They have athletes all over the field,” Goodwin said. “We knew that, without a doubt, and they are young. They are going to be good for years to come.”