MILTON, Ga. –– Final Four bound.
The No. 3 Lowndes Vikings (10-1) traveled to Eagle Stadium and knocked Milton (11-1) out of the playoffs with a 23-13 win Friday night –– securing a semifinals berth.
The Viking defense held the Eagles’ offense to seven points with their other score coming off a kick return.
After starting on the 20-yard line after a touchback, Milton only managed to pick up 19 yards on the drive before they were forced to punt.
The Vikings got the ball and found themselves pinned back to the 3-yard line on 3rd and 18 after gaining negative yards from penalties and plays.
But Elijah Ellis brought the smoke with him as Jacurri Brown found him in the middle of the field to pick up a 47-yard gain for the first down.
The Vikings did not gain much more yards on the drive after that play and was forced to punt after Brown was sacked.
As Milton could not score, they punted the ball back to Lowndes.
Ellis came through with another big play, snagging a Brown pass for a 36-yard gain to place his team on the 27.
Two plays later, IJ Mitchell ducked and dodged his way to the end zone on a 27-yard run to get the first of his two scores on the night.
As Milton's Adam Freas handled quarterback duties in the first couple of drives, he was replaced with the returning Devin Farrell and moved to his usual wide receiver position.
Bryce Thornton broke a 42-yard rush to place Milton on the 19-yard shortly before the team marched to the 2-yard line before the first quarter ended.
On the first play of the second quarter, Jordan McDonald received a direct snap and scored on a 2-yard run.
Ramecia Burgman was flagged for pass interference, placing the Eagles on Lowndes’ 35.
The Eagles could not capitalize, however, after Tylar Belcher prevented Debron Gatling from getting the catch in the end zone.
Burgman made up for his pass interference call by blocking and recovering Jason Aussin’s field goal attempt that would have put Milton up 10-7.
The Vikings could not capitalize from the blocked kick, as the drive ended when Brown underthrew Jaheim James, leading to a Thornton interception.
Milton did not get points off their forced turnover either as Farrell’s pass to Freas fell incomplete.
As the Vikings attempted to score before the half, Brown was sacked and helped off the field with a knee injury before being replaced by Tristin Bohler for the final seconds of the second quarter.
The junior dual-threat quarterback iced his right knee at halftime and returned to action following halftime.
“It just was that dog in me and my team,” Brown said. “I had to put the team on my back and win the game. We had the will.”
On their first drive of the second half, the Vikings began running and gunning against the Eagles’ defense –– going no-huddle all the way down to the 10-yard line before Milton stopped their 70-yard drive.
Lowndes kicker Preston Hart hit on a field goal to take a 10-7 lead with 8:32 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings never relinquished the lead again.
As the final quarter began, the Vikings still were up by three.
The Vikings defense remained firm on the Eagles’ first drive, causing it to end on a turnover on down after TJ Quinn broke up a Farrell pass.
The Vikings had two consecutive scores that would put the game out of reach.
Both came through the ground.
After Brown ran his team down to the red zone, he let Justin Lee finish off the drive with a 5-yard run to get a 16-7 lead with 7:41 left after Hart missed the extra point.
In the following Viking drive, IJ Mitchell iced the game with a 38-yard breakaway run, putting the game out of reach like he did a week ago at North Cobb.
Still, the Eagles did not want to go away as Cam Cainion returned the following kickoff 98 yards to cut Milton’s deficit to 10 with 3:32 left.
“We haven’t allowed anything like that all year,” Vikings head coach Jamey DuBose said after the game. “I think we relaxed, and we can’t do that. When we have a lead, we must keep playing and finish. We made it a little too close.”
Milton onside kicked the ball, but it was recovered by Brown, who stood in on the hands team.
Milton got the ball one more time before the game ended as they attempted to make a last-minute comeback, but Ferrell was intercepted in the end zone by Jalon Baker to lead the Vikings to set up in victory formation.
“I can take this off my bucket list,” Brown said. “We want to get back at everybody whose got us. I didn’t play very good, but my teammates picked me up.”
This win placed the Vikings in the semifinals in DuBose’s first season as head coach.
“We earned it,” DuBose said. “We had a lot of adversity with flags and it seemed like we had to play everybody tonight but at the end of the day we found a way to win."
The Vikings will be headed back to the Atlanta area to face Collins Hill on Dec. 18. With a win, the Vikings will lock up a second consecutive 7A State Championship berth.
“We get to come back up here. How about that?” DuBose joked. “I think we got real estate up here and hopefully we’ll be back the next week. We do not care who we play and where we play. We’re just excited to be in the semifinals with a shot to get to the state championship game.”