After only mustering six combined points in back-to-back defeats, the Milton High School football team did not hit the reset button on its season.
The Yellowjackets were just waiting for their starting quarterback to get healthy.
After recovering from an upper body injury suffered in the preseason, junior Cole Reilly was back under center in Milton’s 39-26 road win over previously undefeated Fair Haven last week.
Making Milton’s Wing-T offense more unpredictable, Reilly connected on 6 of 9 passes for 132 yards, including a 66-yard, over-the-top touchdown strike to Chris McClellan.
The win pushed Milton’s record back to .500 at 2-2, and Reilly’s return rejuvenated a squad ready to make another playoff push in Division II.
“At no point did we panic as a team. Maybe it’s because we knew there was a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. It was just a question of when he was coming back,” Milton coach Chris Hughes said. “It’s definitely a shot in the arm for us. The kids believe in him, which is nice.”
Reilly injured his sternum during an intra-squad scrimmage in the first week of preseason, a setback Hughes originally thought was a broken collarbone. The sternum diagnosis meant Reilly could return by Week 4. A collarbone injury might have ended Reilly’s season before it began.
“I feel blessed,” the quarterback said.
A starter as a sophomore, Reilly didn’t let the injury stunt his development. He went to practice every day and studied film in preparation for a splashy return.
“He has more confidence right now than he did before he got injured. I don’t know how or why but he does,” Hughes said. “Cole is a major reason we won (at Fair Haven). We didn’t throw the ball 30 times, but the fact of the matter is on every snap we could have thrown.”
And that’s the key for Milton. In losses to Bellows Falls (24-6) and Lyndon (28-0), the opposing defenses knew they could stack the line and stop Milton’s rushing attack. The threat of a passing game had been eliminated.
“We are not chucking the ball all over the place,” Hughes said. “But when you have a vertical threat, it makes the defense play a little more honest.”
With backs such as McClellan and Brad Bombard, Reilly said he’s ready to pitch in and give the Yellowjackets more options.
“We are still a running team but I feel I can bring an added element offensively to help us win games,” Reilly said.
Milton plays at Winooski in a nonleague contest tonight before a bye week.