Eagles soar, drop 56 on Anderson in ECC blowout

By Garth Shanklin - Sports Editor
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The 2017 version of Milford’s Eastern Cincinnati Conference showdown with Anderson was a close game, with the Eagles scoring late to secure a one-point lead.

The 2018 version was not nearly as close.

Anderson scored first, but Milford scored six straight touchdowns to take a decisive 56-20 road victory on Friday, September 28.

The hosts got on the board late in the first quarter. After the teams traded interceptions, Anderson marched down the field and scored on a one-yard touchdown run by Owen Koelle with 3:58 remaining.

Milford’s first touchdown of the game came on the ensuing drive. Cameron Kells scored his first touchdown in the contest on a one-yard run with 11:03 left in the second quarter. Grace Ertel’s kick tied the game at seven.

The second quarter was a disaster for Anderson. After Milford’s touchdown, the Eagles’ defense forced a turnover on downs to give the ball back to Kells and the offense. Milford scored again, on another one-yard touchdown by Kells, and took a 14-7 lead with 6:26 left in the half.

On the very next play, Milford’s Ertel kicked the ball toward the home sideline, and it bounced over a return man. Milford’s special teams unit fell on the ball, and 12 seconds later Kells had his third touchdown of the game. The 14-yard run put Milford ahead 21-7 with 6:14 left.

Anderson began the next drive on their own 37 yard line. It ended quickly, as Jack Engleman intercepted a pass to put the Milford offense right back on the field.

Kells capped off the drive with his fourth touchdown of the game, this one a 10-yard pass from Hunter Johnson. Milford led 28-7 with 2:16 left in the half.

The Eagles weren’t done. Anderson marched down the field, getting near Milford territory late in the half. A sack on fourth down resulted in a fumble, and the Eagles recovered.

Jake Ayler cracked the seal on the end zone for Milford on that drive, scoring on a one-yard keeper to put the Eagles ahead 35-7 at the break.

In the second quarter, Milford out-scored Anderson 35-0. The Eagles recorded an interception, recovered a fumble and forced a turnover on downs. Anderson’s only drive not to end in some kind of turnover came after Milford’s last touchdown, when the hosts lost yards on an attempted play just before the half.

Milford head coach Tom Grippa had one word to describe his team’s performance in the period.

“Domination,” Grippa said.

Grippa added that he told his players this game would be a test, one that they had to pass.

“It was a great quarter for us,” Grippa said. “I was happy they were going for it on fourth down. Sometimes you have to do the smart thing and punt, but I’ll take it. It was a great win. Our kids rose to the occasion. I challenged them about playing your best in the big games, playing with poise and confidence against the best teams, and we rose up and did that.”

Cameron Kells did his thing again in the third quarter. Milford started the half with the football, and Kells scored on a 67-yard run just 26 seconds into the period. The run started to the left side, but the senior reversed field and out-ran the defense the rest of the way.

Anderson scored just before the end of the quarter on a one-yard run by Koelle to make it 42-13. Kells added a sixth touchdown on a 46-yard run at 10:48 in the fourth quarter for a 49-13 Milford lead.

After Joey Newton found Evan Upchurch on a 49-yard touchdown reception, Milford’s final score of the game came on a 22-yard run by Kells with 6:31 remaining.

Anderson’s defense saw the run coming, with players calling out “run left, run left” before the snap. Kells ran the ball left, and scored anyway. He thanked his blockers for their work in the trenches.

“I knew they were coming,” Kells said “I have faith in my offensive line, I cut back and made them miss. It’s amazing.”

All told, Kells finished the game with 251 yards of rushing and six touchdowns on 24 carries. He also had five receptions for 45 yards and another score. Grippa had a short but accurate description of his senior running back’s performance.

“He’s a stud,” Grippa said.

Hunter Johnson finished the game with 16 completions in 26 attempts for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Jake Ayler had five receptions for 33 yards. Dylan Hughes added four catches for 36 yards.

Hayden Johnson led Milford’s defense with 12 total tackles. Jacob Turner added seven. Engelman also had seven, along with an interception. Max Ward and Owen Martin also tallied interceptions for Milford. Grippa praised his defensive staff for their plan of attack against Anderson, one that his son, Jimmy, had a key role in implementing.

“My defensive coordinator and my defensive staff put together a great game plan,” Grippa said. “They’re [Anderson] not used to that. That was a great effort by our defense, and Cameron Kells had a special night.”

With the win, Milford now sits at 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the ECC. The team hosts Withrow on October 5, then travels to fellow league unbeaten Kings on October 12.

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By Garth Shanklin

Sports Editor