high school sports: Milan completes first undefeated season in 15 years with win over Lincoln
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
Updated with quotes from Milan and Lincoln players and coaches
With a 36-14 win over Lincoln, Milan completed a historic season, while the Railsplitters couldn't repeat a historic run from last year.
Milan's Friday night win at Railsplitter Field completed its first undefeated season since 1997. The Big Reds will now await its first-round playoff foe to be announced Sunday night.
“After last year, this is all that we had in mind," Big Reds quarterback Robert Kanitz said. "We knew if we put our minds to it and work hard, this is what could happen. It just feels good to have it pay off.”
Lincoln, meanwhile, finishes its season at 5-4, a win short of an automatic playoff berth a year after making the postseason for the first time in school history.
“Our seniors really wanted to continue the legacy of last year’s group, and they really wanted to win," Lincoln coach Chris Westfall said. "So they’re hurting."
After managing just one first half touchdown, Milan went for four more in the second half, two of them on runs from 40 yards or more. That included the last two scores of the game, after Lincoln cut the lead to eight points early in the fourth.
Lincoln made it a one-score game on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Tyree Waller caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Javin Kilgo, before Milan answered two plays later to extend its lead.
Kanitz scored four of the Big Reds' touchdowns, one in the first half, one midway through the third quarter and two in the fourth.
Lincoln sophomore Lazon Hicks caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kilgo for the Railsplitters other score. Milan's Arthur Dukes also scored on a 69-yard touchdown run.
Four times in the first half, Milan advanced inside the Lincoln 25, but only made it to the end zone once. Lincoln recorded fourth-down stops on their own 4, 16 and 25 in the first half to stay in the game.
The Big Reds outgained Lincoln 163-51 in the first half, but only had one touchdown -- a 13-yard Kanitz scamper early in the second -- to show for it.
But they finished with more than 400 yards of total offense, as the Big Reds got the run game going in the second half and wore down Lincoln.
"We weren’t able to get a push and move them off the football," Milan coach Jesse Hoskins said. "We made some adjustments."
Lincoln also made second-half adjustments by going to the air. Kilgo finished with 152 passing yards on 11-of-30, with eight of the completions coming after halftime, two for touchdowns.
Waller, the Central Michigan-bound senior, finished with five catches for 76 yards.
But there was no stopping the Milan rushing attack in the second half, one Westfall spent regretting the fact that his team couldn't get on the scoreboard during its first-half opportunities.
“If we had executed on all those drives, it would have been 21-8 at the half, and instead it was 8-0," Westfall said. "That was a hard hurdle to overcome.”
For Milan's players, Friday marked the culmination of an unlikely quest to an undefeated season -- one the players put their sights on despite a 1-8 record last year.
But it also marks the beginning of its next step, when it starts preparing for the playoffs Sunday.
"It’s hard to put into words," Hoskins said. "I’m very proud of the guys. It truly feels throughout the season like every week is a new week, so you’re happy for a day, and then you get ready for the next opponent. I feel like this team is focused on accomplishing more."