Milford drops wild shootout with St. Thomas, 41-40

Staff photo by HECTOR LONGO Milford senior Owen Zalenski breaks away from the pack for a big Spartan run on Friday night against St. Thomas.

MILFORD – His team galloping down the field to take the lead deep in the fourth quarter, Milford High football coach Keith Jones cranked the mental calculator into overdrive.

Could his Spartans punch in the game-winning touchdown and drain the rest of the clock?

“We just scored too fast,” said Jones, whose club grabbed a 40-35 lead on a 23-yard Gavin Urda-to-Tristan Shattuck TD hookup.

The 3:15 left on the clock was plenty of time for St. Thomas QB Shawne DeKorne, an eternity for the worn-down Milford defense that just couldn’t stop the Saints all night.

DeKorne scrambled for 15 and then 23 more, and then on third-and-10 from the Milford 29 hooked up with Will MacLean for 25. Two dives late, the QB plunged in for the game-winner, giving St. Thomas a 41-40 win in this Friday night classic.

St. Thomas moved to 4-0, its third win by one score or less on the year. Milford falls to 2-2 with the two defeats by a combined eight points.

“Right now, we’re in the hunt, but we have to play better,” said Jones. “When we did it right, we went up and down the field. When we did it wrong, we gave a great football team with great athletes too often.”

Neither team played much of any defense, right from the opening kick.

A first-half rarity, Milford’s three-and-out, set up the first score, when Saint Will MacLean scooped up a rolling punt on the sideline and dashed 53 yards untouched.

The Spartans answered immediately in two plays, Gavin Urda’s 72-yard option keeper and a 4-yard TD plunge by Junior Ughu.

At 7-7, the shootout was on.

DeKorne dove in from 2, and Ughu rumbled 19 yards for a 14-14 stalemate.

But Milford blinked and penalties on both sides of the ball helped the explosive Saints to forge forward at 27-14.

DeKorne hit MacLean on a 17-yard slant and then ran in from 10 for the TDs.

The Spartans then made sure it was still a game headed to the break, mounting a character-laden 12-play, 64-yard drive into intermission.

Twice on fourth down, the Spartans converted — first on a fourth-and-1 with Owen Zalenski moving the chains with a five-yarder and then on fourth-and-goal from the 3 when Urda rolled and delivered a flip to Zalenski for the TD and a 27-21 score at the break.

Milford grabbed the lead in the third at 28-27, with Urda picking off a pass to blunt St. Thomas’ opening drive.

The Spartans drove 80 yards on 13 plays with Ughu bulling in from the 1.

After DeKorne tossed his third TD pass, the Spartans fought right back again.

Urda hit Junior Ughu for 41 yards on fourth-and-2 for the big play, and Zalenski dove in from the 1. After a quick defensive stand, the Spartans moved down for the final drive, but they were just too efficient.

“It was a great high school football game. Hats off to them, they won the game,” said Jones. “We felt like we could have won the game. Hopefully, we can get another shot at them down the road (in the playoffs).”