The Red Hawks can no longer play the underdog card.
After giving Monona Grove its first conference lost in two years, the Milton football team moved to 5-0 after defeating Oregon, 47-26, in a Badger South Conference match Friday night at Anderson Field in Milton.
“Last week we went up to Monona Grove and we could still play the underdog card,” Milton head coach Rodney Wedig said. “We got a big win up there, held on for dear life. Then tonight it was homecoming, a wonderful crowd, I think we were a little tight again early where people were expecting us to win.”
After a tight first quarter that saw Oregon outscore Milton (5-0, 3-0), 13-7, the Red Hawks played like the favorites as they outscored the Panthers, 40-13, in the final three quarters.
The Red Hawks’ shaky first quarter was highlighted by junior quarterback Evan Jordahl’s first interception of the year, which led to six Panther points with 8:15 left in the first.
With a fourth and nine at the Oregon 37-yard line and the first quarter clock dwindling down, Milton dialed up some trickery to get on the board.
After receiving the snap, Jordahl pitched the ball back to senior running back Nick Huber, who launched a 37-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Dane Nelson, who came down with the ball amongst three Panther defenders.
“Once it was in the air, I just had to readjust,” Nelson said. “I was getting real nervous watching it fall. I just put my hands out and caught it kind of like an Adam Thielen style catch.”
“Didn't go as smoothly as we drew it up, but Dane just made a heck of a move to catch that,” Wedig said.
The score, which came with 42 seconds left in the first quarter and put Milton up 7-6, was short lived. The Panthers returned a kickoff for a touchdown on the next play to go back up, 13-7.
But Milton took back the lead in the second quarter with a little bit more magic.
On fourth and goal at the Oregon 7-yard line, Jordahl bobbled the snap, but quickly gathered it, ran out to the right and found senior tight end Hunter Pernot who snatched the ball for the score with a one-handed grab.
After the extra point, the Red Hawks led, 14-13, with 8:27 left in the quarter.
The Panthers and Red Hawks traded scores, a 27-yard touchdown run from Oregon quarterback Matt Kissling, and a 8-yard scamper for senior running back Jerry Jones to knot things up at 20-20 with a minute to go until half.
But after the Red Hawk defense forced a three and out, Jack Weberpal blocked a punt to set up Milton at the Oregon 1-yard line. From there, Jones ran it in for the score with 30 seconds until halftime to give the Red Hawks a 27-20 advantage at the break.
After halftime, it was more Milton.
Jones scored another 1-yard run during Milton’s first possession of the second half to put the Red Hawks up 33-20 with 7:23 in the quarter.
Not long later at the 5:33 mark in the third, junior Luke Hessenauer blocked another punt for the Red Hawks, which set up a 1-yard score for senior running back Brady Olson.
“Those [blocked punts] are huge,” Wedig said. “Anytime you can block a punt and flip the field like that it allows our offense to really grind and eat up the clock.”
Huber got in on the scoring with a two-yard score in the fourth.
“As coach said the whole entire week, they’re [Oregon defense] small, but they are fast,” Nelson said. “But once you hit them they’ll stop being fast. We just kept grinding it like we have every single game this year.”
Huber rushed for 135 yards on 22 carries, while Jones added 78 yards on 16 carries.
Up next for Milton will be Stoughton (4-1, 3-0) on the road Friday at 7 p.m.
“Every single game feels like a championship game,” Nelson said.