With 1:13 left in the first half in Friday’s pivotal Division II football game against visiting Burr and Burton, Milton High School kicker Jack Dabagian drilled a 35-yard field goal to pull the slow-starting Yellowjackets within four points, 21-17.
Milton coach Chris Hughes thought the kick, along with the fact his team would get the ball first in the second half, might be the springboard for a third straight win after a slow start.
However, Bulldog freshman quarterback Griffin Stalcup altered Hughes’ plans — and the course of the game — with a lightning-quick touchdown drive just before the half that propelled Burr and Burton to a 43-17 victory.
Stalcup led his team 79 yards in six plays, completing three passes and receiving another on a gadget play before hitting Eric Cerra on a 15-yard TD pass with 13.6 seconds left until halftime.
For the game, Stalcup was 18-for-34 for 285 yards and three scores. He also added an interception in the second half.
“I think I’m getting better and as a team we are getting better since our first game,” said Stalcup, who had first-quarter scoring passes of 85 yards to Ryan Smith and 5 yards to Dalton Blackwell to put the Bulldogs ahead 14-0 just 3:14 into the game.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” said Hughes. “I think the field goal we kicked at the end of the first half had the potential to be a momentum changer, but … their late touchdown just before the half lit a fire under them and they played well.
“It’s the best I’ve seen them play all year.”
Milton (4-3) rallied to within 14-7 on Brad Bombard’s 5-yard TD run with 4:28 left in the first quarter. Bombard led the Yellowjackets with 88 yards on 21 carries.
After Cerra’s 1-yard TD run pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-7 with 1:16 left in the first quarter, Milton closed the gap to 21-14 on a 7-yard TD pass from Cole Reilly to Chris McClellan with 6:25 left in the half.
Reilly finished 4-for-8 passing for 79 yards, all to McClellan. Cooper Bushey added 63 yards on 16 carries.
Burr and Burton (4-4) added a 6-yard TD run by Will Tucker in the third quarter, a 2-yard TD run by Cerra in the fourth and capped the scoring with a safety on a botched snap on a punt with 9:27 to play.
Cerra had a team-high 35 yards rushing on 11 carries for Burr and Burton, while Smith led the receiving corps with five catches for 145 yards.
“The last two games we started slow, but we were able to come back and I think that has a lot to do with (the fact) we had better athletes and so it was just a matter of time before we clicked,” said Hughes.
“Today, when the athletes on the other side of the ball are as good as yours and you have a start like we had, it’s tough to bounce back,” Hughes said.
Hughes said his team may have a chance to secure one of the four playoff spots in Division II, but it won’t be a slam dunk, even with a win next week against Rice.
“If we don’t take care of business next week we don’t have a shot. We beat Rice and I think there’s a shot. But we have to play a lot better, obviously,” said Hughes.