Milan beats Airport 14-7 to advance to district final
The Milan High School football team has run a two-quarterback system all year with a built-in tell.
When Robert Kanitz is in, Milan’s running. When Justin Aceves is in, it’s likely a pass.
With four minutes, 44 seconds remaining against Airport on Friday and with the score tied 7-7 at Milan High School and with the season on the line, Milan was at midfield and Kanitz came in under center.
It didn’t matter that Airport knew what was coming, Kanitz would not be stopped. And when Aceves came in, Kanitz stayed in the backfield.
He would not be stopped.
Seven plays later, all Kanitz runs, Kanitz rumbled across the goal line for a one yard game winning touchdown with 1:27 remaining in the game.
"The last drive, our offensive line coach Brent Huck was just like 'run the ball downhill and keep the ball in Robert’s hands' and that’s what we did," said Milan coach Jesse Hoskins
Two weeks after losing 41-0 on the same field Airport found a way to fight Milan all night, but couldn’t come up with any magic at the end as Milan advanced to the Division 3 district final with a 14-7 victory.
"Just doing what you gotta do to get the win for the team," said Kanitz, who rushed for 192 yards on 25 carries on the night. "It was frustrating (for the offense not to score all night) but we just kept persevering."
Kanitz's score was Milan's only successful foray into the Airport red zone as the Jets (6-4) came up with a pair of goal line stands in the first half. Kanitz finished with 25 rushes for 192 yards, but the Big Reds (10-0) struggled inside the red zone. Milan's other score came on a 91 yard kick return from Joshua Colville to break a scoreless tie to open the second half.
Milan coach Jesse Hoskins did not have the look of a coach whose team is 10-0 and successful in the first playoff outing of his coaching tenure.
"Am I happy that we won? A little bit, but we didn’t play nearly the way we’re capable of playing," Hoskins said. "Or we didn’t play well enough to beat Chelsea or Tecumseh.”
Tecumseh defeated Chelsea 27-20 and will play at Milan on Friday for the district championship.
In Week 8 of the regular season, the Carleton Aiport football team didn’t look like it belonged on the same field with Milan.
"I’m not a moral victory guy, but am I proud," said Airport coach John Wasshenova.
Of Milan's nine regular season wins, only one was less than 22 points. All of Airport's wins were by eight points or less, including three, one-point victories.
"We wanted to get in that situation, see how they handled it. Give Milan credit, they did everything they had to to get out of here with a win," Wasshenova said
Milan's defense -- led by Ty Peterson, who had three sacks in the fourth quarter alone -- made up for an uncharacteristic offensive night for the Big Reds. Airport gained just 173 yards on the night.
"Our defense is used to us getting on the board quickly and then having a bit of a cushion and we didn’t do that tonight, so they kept us in the ball game," Hoskins said. "It’s a senior-laden defense, guys who worked very hard. We needed that tonight and they provided it for us."
The teams did nothing but trade punts in the first quarter as both defenses came ready to play. Kanitz was able to rip off a 34 yard run on the Big Reds’ first play from scrimmage, but once inside Carleton Airport the Milan running game couldn’t get anything going.
Airport started the second quarter with a drive that came all the way down to the Milan 11-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal from the three yard line Brandon Potcova was met at the first down marker by Milan’s defenders.
Milan responded with a 15-play, six minute drive that started on its own 8-yard line, but stalled deep in Airport territory. Milan had first-and-goal from inside the one, but went backwards on two running plays and had receivers drop balls in the end zone and came away with nothing.
Milan was able to get the ball back one more time before the half and drove inside the Airport 5-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Milan missed a field goal but Airport ran into the Milan kicker. Rather than attempt the field goal again, Milan went for it but quarterback Aceves had his pass dropped in the corner of the end zone.
Airport was keying on Milan’s star running back Arthur Dukes on play action, leaving wide receivers wide open, but several dropped passes hampered what looked like sure scoring plays.
Milan opened the second half with a 91 yard kick return for a touchdown from Joshua Colville, but Airport responded with a four minute drive and capped it a five yard touchdown run from Joshua Bernard to tie the game 7-7. Bernard led Airport with nine rushes for 60 yards.