Cross-town rivalries shape high school football in the South, and the annual Alpharetta (Ga.) – Milton (Ga.) clash is no different. The good news is that we got the game right off the bat this time around, as each program kicked off 2012 with the inaugural "Mayor's Trophy."
Milton won the game in a 35-28 shootout by withstanding a furious rally by Joshua Dobbs and company at the very end. But the Eagles got there the best way they know how.
On the ground.
Milton racked up 450 yards of rushing offense in the win, something that may not be so uncommon with the 2012 version of the program considering its personnel. The offense has flexed out to a spread look, as it will take most snaps from the shotgun with just five down linemen in front. Add in an athletic quarterback, more-than-capable backs behind BCS-quality linemen, and the formula for consistent running success is easy to see.
Junior quarterback A.J. Bush sets the tone for Milton, as he will use his 6-foot-4 frame to make defensive ends think twice before committing on the now-common read-option look. Flanking him on a given play, sometimes both at once, usually is senior running back Peyton Barber and junior tailback Treyvon Paulk. Barber is committed to Ole Miss and Paulk already holds SEC offers in addition so a half-dozen FBS extensions.
Bush's length, Barber's vision and power and Paulk's speed and shiftiness make for a lethal combination on any team, but running behind seniors Cory Helms, Josh Harris and Eason Fromayan make life easier. Nick Wilson, just a sophomore, is also a key cog on the line, reporting offers from North Carolina and Tennessee already. Helms and Harris are headed to Wake Forest and Fromayan followed his father's footsteps to TCU.
Despite just the names, and the school's names involved in the recruitment of each player, are the wide receivers that take pride in blocking down-field. The unselfhish nature of guys like Malik Mitchell, an impressive-looking 6-foot-3 threat with FBS offers, is shared throughout the Eagle roster. It's the dynamic that makes the scheme a success, not just the individual talent.
"It's just trust in each other," said Paulk of the scheme and why it works. "We've been working at this for a while. It's just the beginning for us."
The 2014 standout is right about the beginning part in particular because of the two-back dynamic. Yes, both he and Barber were on the roster in 2011, but the future Rebel was sidelined for most of the season with a high ankle sprain while a young Paulk had to shoulder the load himself. Over 1,000 yards later, bigger and stronger – and Paulk tandems with Barber for quite the combination. The junior ran for 109 yards on Friday and his elder accounted for 225 yards in the win.
"We learn from each other," Barber said after the game. "We're thunder and lightning, and we keep each other motivated."
As for the guys up front, it's a pride thing no matter who has the ball. It was evident after Alpharetta's rally, when Milton ran the clock out with pure power after wearing down the Raider defense – which has its own share of FBS prospect on their defensive line including Georgia commit Naim Mustafaa.
"We have great talent, great coaches," said Helms, who plays center for Milton. "But we play with great effort and purpose!"
The Milton Eagles will run – on purpose – plenty of times in 2012 and it may be the way to change the perspective towards the admittedly underachieving past of the school despite producing several BCS-level prospects along the way.
Take a look at some of Milton's best from the big win in the exclusive FOX Sports NEXT videos below: