Defense leads No. 9 Milford Mill past New Town, 14-12, in nail-biting opener

Tyree Sheppard scores Milford Mill's second touchdown in the third quarter against New Town in the Millers' season opener on Friday night.
Tyree Sheppard scores Milford Mill's second touchdown in the third quarter against New Town in the Millers' season opener on Friday night.(Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Milford Mill quarterback Rishon Holmes threw two touchdown passes in the team’s season opener with visiting New Town. The offense struggled throughout the game, though, and it was the team’s defense that let the Millers come up with a happy ending.

No. 9 Milford Mill survived because its defense stopped a potential game-tying, two-point conversion run in the fourth quarter. The Millers also made five sacks in the second half and escaped with a 14-12 victory over New Town in the first meeting between the schools.


This game looked much like a season opener with both teams repeatedly getting penalties at bad times. Milford Mill had over 10 penalties and repeatedly gave the Titans extra yardage, plays and opportunities on both sides of the ball — but especially on offense.

That’s why the Millers needed some extra help from their defense.


“We had too many penalties, too many penalties,” Milford Mill coach Reggie White said. “The defense played fast and physical. I was very proud of the way we contained the quarterback. It was a point of emphasis all week long.”

Quarterback Brian Williams kept finding ways to break loose running for New Town, which also was hurt by penalties. Williams often was under pressure, especially in the second half as the Millers threw a lot of different looks at him, but stood his ground.

Still, with all of those green jerseys around him, there was only so much he could do at times. Milford Mill stopped Williams from too many long runs and did a good job of keeping him in the pocket.

“We wanted to send a lot of blitzes at him,” said linebacker and running back Jordan Morant. “We tried to throw off his timing.”

But in the end, the biggest plays were two that came in the fourth quarter. After Williams hit Christopher Maddox with a 21-yard touchdown pass with 7:39 left in the game that cut the lead to 14-12, the Milford Mill defense stuffed Zavion Woodard as he tried to run for the game-tying, two-point conversion.

Woodard started to the right but Millers defensive end Makai Booker and others on the line swarmed the running back, and he literally had nowhere to go.

Then, on New Town’s next drive, Morant sacked Williams on third down and forced the Titans to punt.

Milford Mill took the lead when Holmes found Khalil Scott for a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 9:48 left in the second quarter. Jarell Gainer kicked the extra point that gave the Millers a 7-0 lead.

New Town had just minus-8 yards of total offense in the first quarter but put together a long drive starting from its 30 on the next possession. Milford Mill helped with two personal foul calls, and Woodard closed things with an 8-yard touchdown run with 3:42 remaining in the first half.

But the holder couldn’t handle the snap on the extra point, and that left the Millers with a 7-6 lead. They held that until Holmes avoided a heavy rush and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tyree Sheppard with 3:22 left in the third quarter. Gainer’s extra point made it 14-6.

N 0 6 0 6- 12

M 0 7 7 0- 14


M-- Scott 5 pass from Holmes (Gainer kick)

N-- Woodard 8 run (run failed)

M-- Sheppard 8 pass from Holmes (Gainer kick)

N-- Maddox 21 pass from Williams (run failed)

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