MILLEDGEVILLE – The Missiles had to know they were in trouble.
Orangeville’s hulking fullback, Dan Zimmerman, was making one-handed catches. His quarterback, Bryce Brown was getting the ball to him when he seemed destined for a date with the turf.
When Daniel Walker flat-out speared Don Stewart between the numbers, the wideout held on, and the ensuing measurement gave the Broncos a first down by one-third of the football, that pretty much summed up the scene at Milledgeville High School. The Missiles fell 60-34 to the Broncos on Friday night and slipped to 1-1 on the young season.
“We didn’t have an answer for them, defensively,” Milledgeville coach Jason Wroble said. “I don’t know if we stopped them more than twice.”
Truth be told, the Missiles stopped them once. Zimmerman racked up 307 yards on 21 carries and seven touchdowns. He also added a pair of two-point conversions to outscore the Missiles 46-34.
But that’s not how Zimmerman, a runner-up at 220 pounds in 1A wrestling earlier this year, looks at it.
“I know this never would’ve happened without our line,” Zimmerman said. “They’re doing an incredible job this year. We’re conditioned. We’re in shape, and we all know our blocks and stuff.”
The Missiles appeared to have a stop on the game’s opening drive, but on third-and-goal from the 11, Jordan Harris couldn’t bring down Brown who, as he went to the turf, got a pass away to Zimmerman, who dragged a defender into the end zone for a score with 7:16 left in the first.
Fifty seconds later, Walker, who was all over the field for Milledgeville, racking up 116 yards on 11 carries and several rib-rattling tackles, bounced a stuffed run outside for a 50-yard score.
But the Broncos (2-0) achieved six of their 20 first-half first downs on the next drive, capped by a 1-yard Zimmerman plunge.
Two scores later, Zimmerman made a sparkling one-handed catch for a 34-yard touchdown that made it 30-8, one of his two via the air. Not bad for a kid whose coaches admit doesn’t have the greatest hands.
“I really don’t have good hands,” Zimmerman said, laughing. “I was just lucky, I guess. When I had it, I was just taking off as fast as I could.”
With Milledgeville QB Kameron DawTyne knocked out with a suspected high ankle sprain, the Missiles got within 30-14 on a Harris pass that Caleb Skoog stole from Stewart in the end zone with 54 seconds left.
But the proverbial knockout blow came as the clock hit all zeroes. After rumbling for 44 yards, Zimmerman put a pass interference penalty to use, scoring from 3 yards out on a do-or-die play run with 2.4 seconds left and no timeouts in the Broncos’ pocket.
“I told the kids, ‘Hey, if we get a stop here, we get the ball right back and we can claw our way back in,’” Wroble said. “Then to give up the long run and let them punch one in at the end, it was a killer for us, and it’s tough to recover from those kinds of plays.”
Harris (9-for-15, 150 yards, 2 TDs) provided a silver lining, filling in nicely and offering an insurance policy, should DawTyne be out for a bit.
“He threw the ball well, and he didn’t get a lot of snaps in practice,” Wroble said. “He stepped in pretty well and handled things.”
There were no turnovers in the game. A few stops early could’ve made all the difference for the Missiles.
“Football’s a game of inches and, unfortunately, a few times we came up on the wrong end of the stick of those inches,” Wroble said. “If we’d gotten some of those early breaks, our confidence might’ve been in a different place.”