MILAN – Defensive pressure and consistent penetration into the backfield were a couple of keys to success for Milan’s football team Friday night as the Bulldogs beat rival South Gibson 24-14.
The Bulldogs (7-3) allowed the Hornets (6-4) to score on their first possession, but after that, there wasn’t any scoring for the visiting team until there was a minute left in the game and Milan had scored 24 points.
“We had a good night,” Milan head coach Jeff Morris said. “I was really pleased with the way we played defensively, getting back there and getting hits after that first drive.
“South Gibson’s offense is not one we play against a lot, and when you have as much talent as they do running it, they can be tough. It can take you a little while to figure it out.”
Things started well for the Hornets as they marched down the field on the first possession and scored a touchdown.
Tyler Dysart ran for a couple of big gains before Austin Duncan kept the ball for a 23-yard touchdown run.
Milan came back and scored right after that as the Bulldogs had a few big plays to get to the South Gibson 30. That’s where Anthony Ballard took a handoff to the end zone for a 7-6 lead.
Neither team could move the ball consistently after that as each team made its share of mistakes. Milan had a three-and-out drive in which it was penalized three times for 25 yards.
Milan did move the ball to the South Gibson 18 in the second quarter, and that’s where Conner Allen kicked a 35-yard field goal to extend the Bulldog lead to 10-6.
The Bulldogs’ defensive front seven got into South Gibson’s backfield throughout the first half, causing Duncan to have to scramble to either keep from taking a big loss or throw the ball away quicker than he wanted to.
They got to him a couple of times early on to set the tone in the first quarter.
“We’ve got to give credit to Milan for the way they played and how well they executed,” South Gibson head coach Scott Stidham said. “They kept putting us in second- and third-and-long situations, and in our offense, it’s hard to make up that kind of ground in a couple of plays against a defense that’s playing that well.”
Milan took the first possession of the third quarter down the field and capped it quickly when Ballard ran 34 yards for his second score of the night.
The sophomore, who’s already drawing attention from NCAA Division I programs like Vanderbilt, said the Bulldogs came out wanting to end the regular season in a good way before the playoffs start next week.
“Running against their defense was a bit of a challenge, but our line did a great job to help us get the W,” Ballard said. “Milan has a reputation we want to protect, so we wanted to come out and get this win.”
Milan extended the lead to 24-6 early in the fourth quarter when Tristan McDaniel ran in from a yard out for another score.
South Gibson cut into the lead with a minute remaining when Tyler Dysart carried the ball into the end zone.
South Gibson’s loss ends its season.
“We had a good start to the season, but then we met four really good teams in the end that were tough,” Stidham said. “I’m proud of the way these guys played all year.”
Milan knew before the game started it was the Region 7-3A runner-up and will host Region 8-3A third place Bolivar next week.
“This is my first time to be a part of the playoffs,” Ballard said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge, and the first one comes next week.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751