Eagles have gone where no team has gone before
The Eagles (10-2) trailed the Bruni Badgers (9-2) 14-0 in the first half, but found a way to bounce back and win the Class A Region IV area round game 44-22 at Edgewood’s Frank Mata Memorial Stadium. Milano has now won six games in a row.
In near freezing temperatures and fighting strong winds, Milano’s offense used its successful ground game and stout defense to shutdown the Badgers in the second half.
The Eagles will play wellknown playoff foe Falls City (11-0) in the regional round of the playoffs. The Beavers ousted Milano from the postseason in 2010 and 2011 in the area round. The two teams will play at 2 p.m. ( yes, that early) Friday at Bob Shelton Stadium in Mountain City.
Bruni freshman running back Joseph Cruz was a problem for the Eagles early when he could get outside.
Cruz, who tallied 144 yards on 22 carries for the night, would march the Badgers down the field on their opening drive to go up 6-0 with 7:20 left in the first quarter. Milano’s Chris Rowan blocked Bruni’s extra point attempt.
On the first play of the second quarter, Bruni senior Armando Vergara would bust open on the right side for the score. Cruz’s two-point conversion run would put the Badgers up 14-0.
“When they scored after the turnover, I had to ask them how bad they wanted it, how bad they wanted to be playing next week,” Milano Coach Jentsch said. “I’m really proud of them for hanging in there from being 14 points down.”
Then Eagles defense would force the Badgers to punt again, this time getting the ball back at their own 25.
Milano would eat up yardage with senior back Chance Pack, Millar and its ground game.
After a big run by Millar, followed by another by Pack, Millar would find paydirt from the 10 with 40 seconds left in the half. Pack’s conversion run attempt was stopped short, but things were now tied at 14-14.
“Our guys stepped up big when we had too. Our offense stepped up and made some minor adjustments at the half. Our guys were resilient and thought that we could move the ball on them,” Coach Jentsch said. “We’ve done better in the second half all year.”
Millar would find pay dirt again, this time from 16 yards out. His conversion run gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 22-14 with 5:31 left in the third quarter.
Cruz and the Badgers had an answer. He would carry the ball six of the seven plays in that Bruni series, quick to get out on the edge and get big gains.
“Jet sweep (with Cruz) was their best play. It was hard to emulate in practice,” Jentsch said of not being able to stop him at times.
Cruz jumped over a defender to find the end zone from nine yards out. He dove in the two point conversion as well to tie things up 22-22 with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
Then Milano went into attack mode.
They marched their next possession right up gut of the Bruni defense with Millar and Pack taking the lead.
Millar went to the air just five times on the night, but his seven yard touchdown pass to David Jentsch was key. With 10:31 left in the game, Milano would go up 30-22 with Millar’s conversion run.
Then the Eagles defense got in on the scoring. Junior linebacker Derek Walton would cause a Badger fumble that popped up in the air and landed in Jentsch’s arms. He would sprint 35 yards for another score and the Eagles were up 38-22 with 9:37 left in the ball game.
“ The fumble and touchdown off the turnover was really key in the momentum change of the game,” Coach Jentsch said.
The Badgers were running out of answers so decided to try the air. That was a bad idea. Milano junior defensive back Treyton Steinbecker picked off a Bruni quarterback Derly Carrizales pass at the Milano 46 with 7:38 left in the game.
This post-season run is just the eighth for Milano in the school’s 11-man football history. Other playoff appearances were made in 1976, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
The Eagles have now won five playoff games (2007, 2010, 2011, two in 2013) and had never advanced past the area round of the post-season.
Milano has made it to the playoffs three of the four years Jentsch has been the head coach.
This Milano team has also made a mark of its own in the record books, or rather quarterback Millar has. His 268 yard rushing and 22 yard passing performance bumped his season totals to 2,364 yards rushing and 1,075 passing, for a total of 3,437.
That bumps his overall career total offensive yardage to 4,877. That surpasses Chad Burgess’ 4,695 to move atop the Eagle record books as the top career performer in school history.
Pack had a career high night with 101 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Nick Bonorden was Milano’s top receiver with two catches for 15 yards.
On defense, Bonorden led the team with 13 tackles. Cole Sheppard added nine stops.
Scouting Falls City
Falls City runs the spread offense with a tight end and runs it very well, as the Beavers are 11-0 on the season and the highest ranked team in Region IV at No. 3.
Falls City is led by quarterback Dean Gaskamp. The senior has run for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed for 753 yards and 12 scores with just one interception on the year.
Senior running back Justin Twine is their work horse on the ground, tallying 1,181 yards on 61 carries and has scored 19 times.
Sophomore Zach Jimerson has also seen time under center, passing for 431 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They have overall faster team speed and their lines like to hammer you and block until the whistle blows,” Coach Jentsch said. “ They like to run lots of running back and quarterback counter plays and throw the ball very well. The defensive line fires off the ball and their linebacker fly to it.”
The Beaver defense allows an average of 5.09 points per game this season. They are led by senior linebacker Eric Waitrek (112 solo tackles) and senior cornerback Tyler Malcolm (53 solo tackles).
Jentsch knows that the Eagles will have to play all out against the Beavers.
“We are going to have to play our best football, especially on the line and get them in some three and outs,” Coach Jentsch said. “They are one of the best teams we are going to play all season.”
Jentsch said he is still so proud of this group of players, but know they still have some fight left in them.
“We’ve had a great year, sitting at 10-2, but our guys are not content with that,” Coach Jentsch said. “I am so proud of them and that they continue to surprise me at pulling things off. I will be disappointed if we don’t play as good as we have the last six weeks.”
Last man standing
The winner of the Milano-Falls City game will move on to the regional finals (state quarterfinals) where they will play the victor of La Pryor and Sabinal.
La Pryor knocked District 13A-II champion Burton out of the postseason. Sabinal took out 13A-II third place team Bartlett last week as well.
Milano is the second place team out of 13A-II.
La Pryor and Sabinal will play 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gustafson Stadium in San Antonio.
“ When we played our first game at Del Valle JV I knew we were as good as I thought we’d be, but we have gotten better each week and these guys don’t want to lose,” Coach Jentsch said. “I am so proud of them and have to give the team all the credit for going out there and winning the two playoff games.
“No matter what happens this week, they are the first Milano team to have their names on an area trophy. Our coaches have worked hard, but our kids make us want to work hard.”
Milano’s current 10-2 record ties the best performance by a team. The Eagles were also 10-2 in 2011 and 10-1 in 1999.