Needing a win to have a chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2015, the Milton football team came away short of their goal. Despite having a 23-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Red Hawks to Madison Edgewood at home Friday night 27-23.

Edgewood got on the board first on their first drive — after Milton punted on theirs — off a short 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Thomas Hartlieb to lead 7-0.

It took work, but Milton slowly worked their way down field — converting five third-down plays — to finish off a scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Masyn Ulrich from Hunter Pernot. Edgewood blocked the extra point to keep their lead 7-6.

A field goal by Tyler Hughes early in the second quarter put the Red Hawks in the lead for the first time, 9-7.

Threating to retake the lead, Edgewood reached the red zone, but on a third-and-16, a short pass to Murphy Penwell was knocked loose by Ulrich and recovered by Devyn Miller for a Red Hawk turnover.

Three plays later, on Milton’s own third down at the 24-yard line, Pernot’s pass to Hughes was dropped. The pass, however, was called a backwards pass on the field, with Edgewood picking up the ball and returning it for a touchdown to lead 14-9.

Milton remained unfazed. Starting on their own 31, the Red Hawks completed two long passes to reach the Edgewood 18. Following an Edgewood penalty, an 8-yard scoring catch by Joshua Johnson put the Red Hawks back in the lead. A quick two-point conversion by Eric Hessenauer put Milton up 17-14 heading into the half.

“I was really proud that we came back and scored,” head coach Matt Lee said. “It was very important that we came back and scored.”

After getting a quick stop in the third quarter, Milton started their drive in Edgewood territory on the 47 and on a third and 13, got down to the 1-yard line on a reception by Johnson. A 1-yard touchdown reception by Breyden Berberich on the next play put Milton up 23-14.

Edgewood scored a field goal on the following drive, the ball bouncing off the crossbar and through to keep the game a one-score game.

The Red Hawks, needing to keep momentum, stalling on their opening fourth-quarter drive, punted it straight to Edgewood. The Crusaders, starting on the Milton 25 after a strong return, capitalized on the great field position with a 14-yard scoring pass to Alec Finger to bring Edgewood ahead of Milton by a single point, 24-23.

Taking the Red Hawks by surprise, the Crusaders completed an onside kick on the following kickoff. Edgewood drove back into the Red Zone, but a loose pass from Hartlieb was picked off by Ulrich in the end zone.

With time running out for the Red Hawks, they started on their own 20, but couldn’t convert a long third-and-11, requiring Milton to punt. Starting on the Milton 44, Edgewood again got into scoring distance, converting on a short field goal to go up 27-23.

With 1:27 to go, the Red Hawks started the drive on their own 47. Needing a touchdown to win the game, Pernot’s pass was intercepted on the first play by Hartlieb to secure the win for Edgewood and keep the Red Hawks from postseason play for the third straight season.

“We had a few plays that we haven’t ran yet, we were ready to execute. I felt pretty confident. They just made one more play there,” Lee said of the last drive. “Their quarterback made a few big plays in the end and won the football game.”

Edgewood outgained the Red Hawks in total yardage 258 to 207. Milton gained 153 through the air to Edgewood’s 98, but the Crusaders plugged away on the ground, earning 160 yards to Milton’s 54.

“I feel like we had some pretty big plays on special teams,” Lee said. “Tristin Shea had some big plays that I was like “that’s going to end up being the play of the game. That’s going to win us the game.” We had a few decent punts on special teams. Moved the ball most of the night. Stopped them, held them to third and fourth downs most of the night. It was just a couple points.”

The Red Hawks went 8-13 on third downs (62 percent), while Edgewood converted just five of 14 (36 percent). Edgewood went 1-3 on fourth downs, while Milton didn’t attempt any.

While the Red Hawks were in control for much of the night, Lee said “that’s just the way the game of football works.”

“I don’t know, but it bounces their way sometimes. They put the ball on the ground like four times at the end and they got it back every time. Just tough.”

The Red Hawks finish the season 3-6 overall and 2-5 in the Badger South conference.

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