AMBOY – They didn’t have their quarterback. For large stretches of the second half, they didn’t even have their top running back. But the Milledgeville Missiles did have one thing.
“We played with a lot of guts,” Missiles coach Jason Wroble said after his team clawed its way to a 14-6 victory over host Amboy-LaMoille on Friday. “It wasn’t as clean as we would have liked, but we never gave up.”
Though the Missiles entered this season on the heels of a 2016 playoff berth, the Clippers (3-6 last year) came in as the bigger, stronger, and healthier team for the 2017 season opener. That led Amboy coach Gary Jones to expect a bit of an edge in the trenches, but Milledgeville impressed its hosts with its tenacity and stubbornness.
“We didn’t get off the ball,” Jones said. “We were bigger than them, obviously, and I thought we could pound the ball, but whenever we got something going, bang, they’d shut us down.”
Amboy led 6-0 at halftime thanks to a pair of long passes by Justin Hart, who first found Andrew Gillan down the right sideline for a 31-yard gain and then 220-pound split end Reece Vaessen for a highlight-reel 15-yard score.
The Missiles weren’t doing themselves any favors, either, committing four early turnovers before a long punt return by Carson Boyer set up a 2-yard TD plunge by quarterback Nate Rahn midway through the third. The score by Rahn, who was thrust into action after the team’s expected starter suffered a concussion last week at practice, gave Milledgeville an 8-6 lead.
It was a tenuous lead, however, especially after cramping sidelined Boyer for parts of the second half, forcing Wroble to look deep on the bench for help.
“We’re thin numbers-wise,” he said. “We had to use a couple sophomores in there, but they stepped up and played tough.”
With its defense holding up its end of the bargain against the Missiles’ battered offense, Amboy desperately tried to retake the lead, giving the Missiles several different offensive looks, including a spread offense that heavily featured the bruising Vaessen.
But Milledgeville’s defense was up to each challenge.
“We just had to adjust,” said junior linebacker Cayde Gusloff, who recorded a pair of sacks. “We shifted into their formations. We didn’t know they were going to run some of that stuff, but we played smart and used our quickness.”