The Warriors (5-4, 3-3 Region 5AAAAAA), held scoreless until late in the game, played against a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Cherokee coach Josh Shaw took the blame for the loss, saying he didn’t prepare his players, mentally or physically, for Milton.
“Schematically, there wasn’t anything that we didn’t practice,” Shaw said. “We just weren’t prepared to play, and that falls back on me. We will have to do better jobs as coaches to get these guys prepared for next week.”
Now fifth in the region, Cherokee must win its regular-season finale with Wheeler next week, and hope for some help from above to get a playoff berth.
Shaw encouraged his players to flush the game from their minds and refocus on next week.
“They knew what was riding on this game if we had been able to come out of here with a win,” Shaw said. “We tried to focus (Friday) on taking care of our own business, but that didn’t happen.
Milton (7-3, 4-2) used a 30-yard pass from Austin McLeod to Micco Brisker to go up 7-0 on the first possession of the game. After a Cherokee punt, the Eagles used another pass — this time a 27-yard completion from McLeod to Zack Spiezio — for a 14-0 lead.
Cherokee showed promise on its next drive, but turned the ball over on the Milton 15 after failing to convert on fourth down.
Brisker scored twice more for the Eagles before the end of the half, on runs by 7 and 25 yards. Cherokee found itself in a 28-0 hole entering the third quarter, but it received the opening kickoff for the second half.
Once again, another drive that showed promise was cut short, this time when Spencer Ashley threw an interception at midfield. Milton converted it into a 12-yard touchdown run by Brisker, and a 35-0 lead.
Cherokee’s next two possession ended with interceptions.
Ashley, who left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter, finished the game 16-for-23 passing for 151 yards and a pair of interceptions. Sophomore Brit Williamson stepped and went 3-for-6 passing for 92 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The interception thrown by Williamson in the fourth quarter proved especially damaging. The Warriors were still looking for their first points of the game and were driving at the Milton 5 when Chad Toliver intercepted the Williamson pass on the 1-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
Cherokee quickly recovered, however, and scored on its next drive, with Williamson hitting Andrew Harris across the middle for the 77-yard touchdown.
Brittain Brown led Cherokee with 81 rushing yards on 16 attempts, while Williamson also showed he was capable of moving the ball on the ground with five carries for 22 yards. Blace Brown caught eight passes for 75 yards, while Harris was the team’s leading receiver with two catches for 92 yards — thanks largely to the long touchdown pass.
Brisker led Milton with 14 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He added another touchdown on a 30-yard catch.
McLeod was 8-for-9 passing for 143 yards. Spiezio caught two passes for 56 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an apparent broke leg.