In a 71-point dogfight that ended in overtime, the Milbank football team triumphed over Madison in the 2023 Battle of the Bulldogs. Milbank seized the heart-thumping win with a 20-yard field goal by Moises Luna to push the final score to 37-34.
Milbank drew blood in the first quarter with a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Garrett Mertens to sophomore Esteban Abrego with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. Milbank missed the extra point, but held an early psych-boosting lead at 6-0.
Madison responded at 11:19 in the second quarter, with a touchdown run from Jordan Pedersen after the hand off. Thomas Mechels put up the kick for one more point to give Madison the lead at 7-6. Madison’s quarterback, 6’7” junior Ben Brooks, blasted a torpedo to Shane Veenhof for a 78-yard run to add another six points to Madison’s total. The kick, again by Mechels, was not good, but Madison was ahead 13-6.
Milbank proved they also had the muscle to handle big numbers. Deep in the second quarter, junior Tate Schlueter ran for an 80-yard touchdown. Luna followed with a kick between the goalposts to tie things up at 13.
Madison kept things moving in the second quarter. Brooks connected with Cale Johnson on a 39-yard pass at 6:35 to put up another six for Madison. Their PAT by Mechels was good. With 3:14 to go in the half, Brooks sneaked into the endzone on a quarterback keeper to secure another TD. Michels booted in the extra point to give Madison the 27-13 lead going into the locker room at the break.
Milbank returned to Beacom Field locked and loaded. Just into the second half, sophomore Braylen Bowsher ran for an 84-yard lights-out kick return to claim a huge TD for the visitors. The PAT by Luna was good, and Milbank drew closer at 27-20. With 30 seconds left in the third quarter, Mertens connected on a TD pass to xx Emmett Hanson to edge Milbank within one point at 26-27. Milbank – going for the lead instead of a tie– attempted a two-point run, but it was incomplete. At the end of three, Madison held the advantage at 27-26.
Milbank continued to ratchet up the fans’ blood pressure. At the 22-yard line,with the clock winding down to 4:20 and with Milbank still behind, Mertens flung another bomb to Hanson for a touchdown. Schlueter nailed Mertens’ pass for the two- point conversion and the Bulldogs of the North were again in command of the lead at 34-27.
Milbank fans could taste victory, but Madison wasn’t ready to roll over yet. Brooks hurled a pass to Veenhof for a touchdown. Madison briefly trailed by just one. Mechels’ kick went up and in to find the Bulldogs deadlocked one more time at 34-34 at the end of regulation.
With OT rules in effect, Madison had the first opportunity to score. Hanson sacked the quarterback to push Madison back to the 16-yard line,.and Milbank’s defense took care of the rest. Milbank gained possession, and they worked their way down to just shy of the goal line, but the drive had cost them too many downs. They faced a pivotal moment. In a bold move, they opted for a field goal. Fortune favors the bold and Luna kicked it up and in. Milbank clinched the win 37-34!
Milbank won the battle with team effort and passed the glory around.
Brian Allmendinger, head coach for MIlbank, said, “Difficult to single out a player. Emmett had a tremendous game and made some crucial plays to help secure the victory. However, this was a complete team win. Many others had great games as well – Tate Schlueter with 134 yards rushing, 74 yards receiving and one touchdown. Jesse Schneck (JR) had nine tackles for the defense, including two sacks and Layten Osowski (SO) led the team with 10 tackles.”
Mertens ruled in another outstanding night on the field with a 52 percent completion rate. He had 155 yards passing for three TDs. Junior Owen Tesch put up 79 yards rushing. He also leveled six Madison players.. Hanson, also a junior, nabbed three receptions for 49 yards and two touchdowns.He also put up six tackles, Ethan Owen, Joe French, and Rick Sam each had four tackles. Jaden Johnson made three tackles. Oliver Korth and Micah Tostenson had two tackles apiece. Lucas Johnson and Landon Novy each contributed one tackle.
For Madison, Brooks completed 19 of 28 attempts for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Shane Veenhof caught nine receptions for a total of 188 yards. Caleb Hodges led the team with 48 yards rushing. Eli Barger collected 13 tackles. Jordan Pedersen pulled down 11; Braxton Bjorklund, 10; and Parker Johnson, eight.
Madison, now 0-2, will face West Central this Friday.
Milbank 6 6 13 8 3(OT) 37
Madison 0 27 0 7 0(OT) 34
What’s next? Milbank, now 2-0, hosts Vermillion on Friday, September 8, at A.B. Campbell Stadium. Coach Allmendinger says, ‘Now we will need to focus on a tough Vermillion team.” Vermillion is reeling from two early losses this season. Last week, they were defeated 18-12 at home against Lennox. They were shut out 21-0 in their opener on the road at Dakota Valley.
Planning to go? Note the early kickoff time. Game starts at 6 p.m.