Santa Rosa County prep football fans were treated to a rain-delayed spring game on Monday night featuring one of the area’s top rivalries –Pace vs. Milton.
Though it would be tough to top the thrilling finish from last year’s regular season match up (Milton won by FG as time expired), both the Panthers and Patriots offered excitement for their fan bases to take into the summer.
The Panthers came away with a 14-7 win in the varsity portion, as rising-junior Aubrey Williams dished out two TD passes in the scrimmage.
“It’s always a great atmosphere (for Pace vs. Milton),” Williams said. “There were a bunch of fans (Monday night). It’s always nice when you can beat Pace twice in the same school year.
“It’s always great playing Pace — I think it’s the best rivalry in the Panhandle.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Williams linked up with Marquise McCroy for a 55-yard gain off a play action fake.
Though the Panthers were unable to produce points on the first drive, Williams found Cameron Brye for a 7-yard score on the second drive to take a 7-0 lead.
With four minutes to play, Deionte Ganzy capitalized on a Pace fumble and took it 45 yards down to the Pace two-yard line.
Williams found Jarrett Martin for a 16-yard TD on the next play, which proved to be all the separation the Panthers needed with a 14-7 lead.
But Pace made it close, driving down to Milton’s 30 for a chance at a game-tying heave with less than 10 seconds to play. The last-second attempt fell incomplete to preserve the win for Milton.
Pace found its lone score of the night after Damean Bivins took a QB keeper for a 19-yard TD just minutes into the final quarter.
“I thought the kids played hard … and that’s what I asked of them,” said Pace head coach Kent Smith, making his debut as Patriots HC. “I thought the defense played great, even when we put ‘em in a hole a few times. Offensively, we did what we needed to do except for turning the ball over a few times.
“This spring we’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of things going on, but I’ve been happy with the effort since day one (of spring football).”
For Milton, spring presented an unusual situation as the returners on offense greatly outweighed the returning defensive starters.
“This is the first spring since I’ve been here that’s been like that,”said Milton coach Chafan Marsh, referring to the amount of defensive starters returned compared to offense. “We had a bunch of young guys who played well. I was happy with the outcome.
“We started out good then we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. But we showed resilience and found our way back.”