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Milford Mill loses to Linganore, 28-27, on last-minute TD in Class 3A state title game

Milford Mill’s second state football championship will have to wait a little longer than 30 years.

In Thursday night’s Class 3A final, the No. 9 Millers scored the first 19 points, but they couldn’t hold off Linganore. Davon Butler ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left to give the Lancers a 28-27 victory and their sixth state championship at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

The last time the Millers (12-2) won a football state championship, coach Reggie White played on the team. That was 1987 and this year the coach had hoped to share another championship with his son, senior lineman Nicholas White, in their last game together.

Milford Mill used its speed and quickness on both sides of the ball to roll through the first 21 minutes of the game, but the Lancers (12-2) turned the momentum with a touchdown 48 seconds before halftime.

That sparked a 22-point run and the Lancers took their first lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game. The Millers, who played fast and aggressive in the first half, seemed to lose their fire.

“Coach White pointed out [at halftime] the fact that their coach gave them a good speech and they was going to come out fired up,” senior wide receiver Ugo Obasi said. “Nobody was going to hand us anything, so they came out fired up and we came out like we had a 19-0 lead.”

Late in the fourth quarter, the Millers started playing as they had earlier in the game. After White’s tackle stopped Butler on fourth-and-2 on the Millers’ 18 yard line, quarterback Brandon Savage took them 82 yards on six plays in less than two minutes.

Savage, a senior defensive back, hadn’t played quarterback since eighth grade but agreed to take the job this fall when the Millers needed him under center. Thursday night he completed 16 of 24 passes for 233 yards.

On the long scoring drive, he hit Troy Scott, Obasi and Rishon Holmes for long gains while Desmond Shell picked up the rest of the yardage, including a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:02 left. He added the 2-point conversion for a 27-22 Millers lead.

Lingnore faced another fourth down on its next drive at the Milford Mill 32. Needing 1 yard with less than three minutes to play, Ben Musselman ran for a first down. Glenn Morris and Kevin Neal were in on the tackle for Milford Mill and Neal said he didn’t think Musselman got the yard, but he did.

Eight plays later, Butler (29 carries, 175 yards) was in the end zone after a 2-yard burst.

One of the keys to the win was speeding up the offense in the second half, said Lancers coach Rick Conner, who won his 150th career game in the semifinal.

“We felt like offensively if we could create a fast pace, that was going to benefit Linganore High School,” Conner said. “We spend a lot of time on conditioning … so going fast, we felt we could tire them out. They’re trying to set their defense based on all these formations and the quick snap and pace of the game was something we felt we could dictate to help us.”

Early in the game, the Millers’ speed got the better of Linganore and they stacked the box on defense to pressure Lancers quarterback Ryan Leyh, keeping him off balance much of the first half. However, on the Millers’ second and third touchdowns, they missed the extra point and then the conversion run, leaving three points on the field that would come back to hurt them.

The Lancers struggled to move the ball through most of the first half against a Milford Mill defense led by Neal, Morris and Jordan Morant. They also couldn’t counter the Millers’ speed, especially on the outside.

In the half, the Millers, Baltimore County’s Division I champions, had 233 yards of total offense while Linganore managed just 86 — 69 of that on its last possession of the second quarter. Milford Mill finished with 434 yards, but the Lancers had 367.

Milford Mill took the lead when Shell (13 carries, 119 yards) grabbed a pitch from Savage and headed left. Closed off, he ran back around the right side, got a block near the middle of the field and broke several tackles en route to a 17-yard scoring run. Thomas Downs’ extra point made it 7-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

Savage then hit freshman Holmes with an 18-yard touchdown pass for a 13-0 lead with 43 seconds left in the quarter. Scott (17 carries, 79 yards) scored on a 24-yard touchdown run that boosted the lead to 19-0 with 8:10 left in the first half.

With key young players on the team, White and the Millers believe they can get back to the title game. The last Milford Mill team to make it to the final before this season was the 1987 championship team.

“I’ve been on this team since ninth grade,” Neal said. “I’ve seen us good, bad. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve played some tough games and sometimes you just play your heart out and you get what you deserve. We was up and we let it slip out of our hands. It was very cool still and I feel like we can come back, as a team, and win the championship. We will be back.”

L 0 8 6 14 — 28

M 13 6 0 8 — 27

M—Shell 17 run (Downs kick)

M—Holmes 18 pass from Savage (kick failed)

M—Scott 24 run (kick failed)

L—Butler 6 run (Formulak kick)

L—Kolick 60 pass from Leyh (Formulak kick)

L—Butler 15 run (Leyh run)

M—Shell 9 run (Shell run)

L—Butler 2 run (Butler run)

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