Even the staunchest supporters of the Dundalk football team could be excused for viewing Friday’s game against visiting Milford Mill with some trepidation.

The Millers came into the game with a 7-1 record and holding first place in the Class 3A North standings, with wins over teams that had handily beaten an Owl team with a 4-4 record.

Instead, Milford Mill needed a few Dundalk miscues to escape the Owls’ Nest with a 28-14 win.

“We have tough kids, and they didn’t want to be on the end of a lopsided beating,” Dundalk coach Matt Banta said. “I’m so happy with the way the kids fought. They rose to the occasion. If we could have played all season with the caliber we played with tonight, we could have been in a really good position for the playoffs.

“It’s a shame it took so long for us to wake up.”

A win over the Millers would have put Dundalk in contention for a playoff spot despite a 5-4 record. Five teams with 6-3 records are vying for three playoff spots behind Milford Mill.

Dundalk grabbed a quick 7-0 lead over Milford Mill after the Millers fumbled on their first play and the Owls recorded at the Miller 11-yard line.

Kobe Wolfe picked up nine yards, and then scored on the next play.

The Owls had another opportunity when the Millers lost another fumble at the Owl 31-yard line on their second possession.

Three straight running plays picked up three first downs and gave Dundalk a first down at the Miller 25-yard line. Treshawn Ray carried the ball twice for 33 yards.

But the Owls were unable to go any further and attempted a 42-yard field goal. Will Kelly’s kick had the distance but was just wide left.

“That was a big momentum-changer,” Banta said. “We could have been up 10-0. “He just barely missed.”

Instead, Milford Mill scored on its next two possession to take a 14-7 lead.

On third and one from the Dundalk 41-yard line, Milford quarterback Brandon Savage hit Ugo Obasi slanting across the middle. Basi outraced the defense for a touchdown.

Dundalk had to punt on its next possession, and a good return started the Millers at the Owl 38-yard line. From there, Milford Mill scored in four plays.

The Owls later drove to a first down at the Miller 16, but a penalty and a sack led to Dundalk turning over the ball at the Milford Mill 24.

A nine-play, 76-yard drive boosted Milford Mill’s lead to 22-7 at halftime and the feared rout appeared to be set in motion.

However, the Owl defense started to shut down Milford Mill in the second half, and Dundalk made it a one-score game with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Keyon Garrus to Will Fedd.

Fedd had three receptions for 49 yards on the drive, including a leaping, fingertip catch in front of two Miller defenders for a 30-yard gain to the Milford Mill 12.

But with the Owls driving for the possible tying score early in the fourth quarter, Milford Mill’s Desmond Shell intercepted an Owl pass and returned it to the Dndalk 27-yard line.

A persnal foul against the Owls moved the ball to the eight-yard line, from where the Millers scored in two plays on a touchdown pass to Jawaun Werrell for a 28-14 lead with 11:04 remaining.

A holding penalty halted Dundalk’s next drive, and an interception on Dundalk’s next possession clinched the win for the Millers.

“We have a lot of young guys in the secondary, and Milford Mill figured out they could stretch the field on us,” Banta said. “They have athletes, we knew that, and knew they could stretch the field at any point.

“They’ve been running the ball well all year, and we played the run very well. I’ll hang my hat on that. We’re young, but gained some valuable experience. We’re excited for the future.”

Dundalk finishes the regular season at Kenwood (4-5) on Friday.

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