DANVILLE — Watching Milton's offense this season, it's difficult to believe that only one offensive lineman returns from last year's squad.
The way the offensive line has played in the Black Panthers' best start in 21 years, makes them seem to be a seasoned-unit.
The Black Panthers ran for 388 yards, including 271 yards by freshman Chris Doyle, to grind out a 35-12 victory over Holy Redeemer in the Tomato Bowl at Danville High School.
Milton (3-0) scored 29 of the final 35 points to pull away.
"The only thing beating us was ourselves. We went into the locker room, got some things figured out, and in the second half — me and the boys — we took care of business," Milton center Gunner Treibley said.
"I'll be honest, we put the first three games on our offensive line," Milton coach Phil Davis said. "We came off the ball hard in the second half. Once again our O-line played outstanding."
Doyle has topped 100 yards in each of his first three games as a tailback for the Black Panthers, topped by Friday's nearly 300-yard effort. He carried the ball 18 times for 169 yards in the second half, including nine of the first 11 Milton plays in the third quarter.
That kind of work was necessary to keep the Royals offense off the field. Quarterback Jacob Hunter threw for 253 yards and two scores, while Justice Shoats had six catches for 145 yards and two scores.
Their 54-yard touchdown hook-up with 7:28 left in the third quarter had Holy Redeemer within 28-12, but Doyle and the offensive line went to work. Milton marched 13 plays for 73 yards in 5:34, capped by Doyle's 3-yard TD run with 1:43 left in the third quarter. Hindered by a holding penalty to start the drive, Milton faced a first-and-23 from its own 15, lost quarterback Xzavier Minium on the next play for few minutes, and still converted the first down when back-up quarterback Peyton Rearick converted fourth-and-4 from Milton's own 36 with a quarterback sneak.
Minium forced a fumble on the end of a 12-yard Hunter to Shoats completion on Redeemer's first offensive play of its next drive. Eight plays later, Minium scored his third touchdown of the game — a 7-yard scamper to give Milton a 35-12 advantage with 9:58 left in the game.
The Royals drove into Milton territory on their next drive, but a combination of penalties and a sack by Farrell Sipe ended the drive, allowing Milton to run the final 4:42 off the game clock.
Milton's defense finished with five sacks, and pressured Hunter all over the field. They also effectively made the Royals one-dimensional as Holy Redeemer attempted just four running plays that weren't scrambles by Hunter.
"We have to a better job of breaking down and tackling in space, but we never let (Hunter) get comfortable back there," Davis said. "Especially in the second half, we had him running all over the place."
The Black Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched 49 yards for a 6-0 lead capped by Minium's 4-yard TD run before the extra point was blocked. Holy Redeemer tied the game at 6-6 with 10:05 left in the second quarter when Hunter hit Shoats with an 18-yard TD pass. Milton blocked the Royals' extra point.
Milton responded with 63-yard drive all on the ground, including a 37-yard run by Doyle. Minium scored from 4 yards out, then broke a tackle on the sideline and dove in for the two-point conversion for a 14-6 Milton lead with 6:55 left in the first half.
Rearick recovered an errant punt snap by Holy Redeemer at the 20 for Milton to set up its final score of the first half, but it wasn't easy. A holding penalty had Milton pushed back to third-and-20, but Minium ran for 10 yards, then followed with an 11-yard keeper on fourth-and-10, making a cut, and breaking a tackle to get the first down. Doyle scored from 9 yards out with 1:45 left in the first half to send the Black Panthers to the break with a 21-6 lead.
MILTON 35, HOLY REDEEMER 12
Holy Redeemer (0-3);0;6;6;0 — 12
Milton (3-0);6;15;7;7 — 35
Milt-Xzavier Minium 4 run (kick blocked)
HC-Justice Shoats 18 pass from Jacob Hunter (kick blocked)
Milt-Minium 4 run (Minium run)
Milt-Chris Doyle 9 run (Trace Wittier kick)
HC-Shoats 54 pass from Hunter (kick failed)
Milt-Doyle 3 run (Wittier kick)
Milt-Minium 7 run (Wittier kick)
RUSHING — Holy Cross: Justice Shoats 2-12; Josh Wisnewski 1-(-1); Zach Porta 1-(-2); Jacob Hunter 11-(-18); team 1-(-23). Milton: Chris Doyle 30-271, 2 TDs; Xzavier Minium 10-72, 3 TDs; Mason Rowe 4-29; Peyton Rearick 3-17; Chris Aviles-Robles 1-0; team 1-(-1).
PASSING – Holy Cross: Hunter 18-31-0 for 253 yards, 2 TDs. Milton: Minium 3-4-0 for 39 yards.
RECEIVING — Holy Cross: Shoats 6-145, 2 TDs; Porta 7-85; Tyler Tardnecki 3-19; Wisnewski 2-6. Milton: Rearick 1-31; Dylan Reiff 1-4; Ashton Krall 1-4.