Defenders earn Tomato Bowl trophy
MILTON — Long after taking a final knee and the postgame huddles were concluded, Warrior Run quarterback Gage Anzulavich had one final handoff to make. After guiding his team to a 34-14 win over rival Milton on Friday night, the senior held the Tomato Bowl trophy after posing for pictures with several of his teammates. As Anzulavich searched for the member of the Harvest Festival committee who awarded the team the prize, head coach D.J. Flick intercepted the glass the bowl, which had been emptied of its tomatoes by a feeding frenzy, from his quarterback.
The second-year head coach new to the Milton-Warrior Run rivalry accepted the handoff from his quarterback with a wide grin on his face, clearly understanding the importance of the result.
“I didn’t get a sense of the meaning of this rivalry until about 15 minutes before kickoff, but once you see everyone in the stands and how passionate they are about this game then it really hit me, this is a rivalry,” Flick said.
Prior to handing off the trophy to his coach, Anzulavich spent a good portion of Friday night handing the ball to offensive lineman turned running back Pacey Howard. The senior showed his power and grit developed in the trenches. He carried the ball 30 times for 193 yards and scored two touchdowns.
The Warrior Run offensive line continously allowed Howard to pick his way and build momentum as he punished Milton tacklers. Howard was tackled behind the line of scrimmage only three times and two of those came in the final quarter.
“Their offensive line did a really good job up front and Howard runs hard, especially when he gets a head of steam going,” Milton coach Phil Davis said. “We weren’t able to get contact until three or four yards down the field and that’s really hard to do against a guy with that size and going that hard.”
Howard’s second rushing touchdown in the third quarter capped an impressive 13-play drive for the Defenders (1-1) that gave them a 34-7 lead. The strong start of the second half came after Warrior Run scored on its final drive of the first half for a three-score lead.
Anzulavich, who threw for 128 yards and two touchdowns, connected on two of his best throws of the night during the final first-half drive. First he hit Isaiah Derr on a deep in for 24 yards down to the Milton 13. The next play he stared down a Milton blitz and delivered a 13-yard strike to Riley Daubert.
“All their backers were coming so I knew the middle of the field was going to be open and (Daubert) ran a great route and I just stood in there and threw a strike to him and he did the rest,” said Anzulavich, who after pulling himself of the turf at Alumni Field turned to his sideline to help signal touchdown.
Daubert, a sophomore, also caught Anzulavich’s first touchdown strike, an 11-yarder in the second quarter which gave Warrior Run a 14-7 lead.
The Black Panthers (0-2) had tied the game on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Philip Davis to begin the second quarter. The 79-yard drive was an example of Milton’s ability to move the ball against the Defenders, but the Black Panthers couldn’t overcome numerous penalties and turnovers.
Milton turned the ball over three times, including an errant snap on a punt that led to Warrior Run’s initial score. Fifteen Milton penalties also derailed positive drives or at times gave the Warrior Run offense a more favorable down and distance.
“We had penalties on both sides of the ball that just killed us,” Davis said. “We did a poor job tonight of helping to give ourselves a chance to win.”