Najeh’s Game of the Week: Milton at Lambert Preview
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Game of the Week takes place at Lambert High School as they host Milton for a region championship. Streaks are on the line in this one. Milton is 6-3 overall, hasn’t lost a region game since 2017, placing the Eagles one victory from their fifth-straight region title. Lambert is 9-0 and looks to make Friday their first undefeated season in school history and first region title since 2016.
Brandon Jones has been a crucial part of the Lambert offense. He’s been a starter since he was a sophomore. He has 712 yards receiving and nine touchdowns on the year. James Tyre has been equally as important on the offensive side of the ball as he plays point guard, distributes the ball to his playmakers, and takes care of the football. Lambert Coach Marc Beach discussed both players’ value in Lambert’s offense.
“When you have James at quarterback, he makes many plays happen that you don’t see. He is such a fantastic player,” said Beach. “If he were three inches taller, everybody in the country would be after him. I get it. That is the way recruiting goes. He is a fantastic player and manages the game just as he does on the basketball court.”
“Brandon Jones has had a great year for us at wide receiver. I think he has 9 or 10 receiving touchdowns,” said Beach. “He just makes plays.”
Sophomore quarterback Luke Nickel has stepped up in a huge way and has delivered for the Eagles. Nickel has thrown for 1,686 yards and 14 touchdowns. Debron Gatling is dangerous on the outside. He has 583 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Gatling has over 30+ power five offers. Milton Coach Ben Reaves talked about their impact on the offense.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself that Luke is just a sophomore because one of his biggest attributes is that he doesn’t get rattled. That is so rare in the quarterback world,” said Reaves. “Maybe you throw a pick or two and misread a progression. It is hard sometimes for quarterbacks to get over that negative play. Luke is over it. He flushes it and is on to the next one. Because he can play with that mindset, he can grow and be successful as a young player. Luke is a sponge and tries to soak up everything he can whether he is watching film with a coach or whether we are on the field.”
“Debron is so versatile. He is not just a deep ball guy to where he has to go catch a post or a fade. He is shifty enough where you can put him in the slot and throw a bubble screen to him,” said Reaves. “You can let him run a speed out—some of those specialized routes outside guys can’t always do. We can move him everywhere. He is hungry for the ball, and he works hard for the ball. Outside of his other intangibles, his versatility is what I love most about him because it is hard to take him away when we can put him anywhere on the field.”
An intriguing matchup in this game will be Milton’s defense vs. Lambert’s offense. Lambert’s offense averages 36 points per game, with their lowest-scoring outing coming against West Forsyth, where they scored 20. Milton is allowing just seven points a game in their three-game win streak and has even pitched a shutout. William Parton and Owen Philips have combined for 14.5 sacks on the season for their defense. Jack Lawson, a wide receiver converted linebacker, leads them in total tackles.
“William Parton and Owen Phillips are just straight-up warriors. When you talk about a kid that is going to give you everything on the football field, they are going to stay on the field until the game ends or until you have to drag them off,” said Reaves. “That is the mindset and mentality that both kids play with. Those two guys energize our defense based on how they play and how hard they play. I would challenge anybody to watch film and find a play where either one of those guys is truly loafing or taking a play off. They go full speed every single play.”
“Outside of our two big safeties, Jack Lawson is arguably the best two-way player on the team. This is a kid who was a starting receiver and phenomenal receiver,” said Reaves. “Incredible hands, fast, runs good routes, and was going to be a starter for us. He ended up breaking his thumb, but he wanted to play football so badly that he transitioned from receiver to linebacker, which few players can do. You have to have athletic ability. He transitions to linebacker and is leading the team in tackles. He did it for seven games in a cast. I can’t say enough about his athleticism and the fact that he was able to make a position change and impact the defense the way he has shown how good of a player he really is.”
Joseph Tripp and Bradley Gabriel lead the Lambert defense. Tripp has 64 total tackles (leads the team) and ten tackles for a loss. Gabriel had two interceptions, seven passes defensed, and one fumble recovery. Coach Beach talked about what both players bring to the defense.
“Joseph Tripp is our leader on defense. Him and Bradley Gabriel. Bradley manages the backend, and Joe Tripp manages the front seven. Tripp had a big pick-six against Denmark. You see him, and he is going to make a lot more money than me in life,” said Beach. “He is such a smart kid and watches a ton of film. He is like having a coach on the field. Joe knows what to expect by how they line up and those kinds of things. He puts our defense in the right position. Bradley gets people in the right place on the backend and has made a ton of plays. Those two guys have helped us to get to where we are.”
This game for Milton means a little bit more. It’s a team counted out this year because of their transition phase and many players on their state champion finalist team graduating. Some said it was a team that would break the incredible streak of region dominance. Surely, they have no chance with a brand new offensive line, no Devin Farrell, Jordan McDonald, Jack Nickel, or Lebbeus Overton on this year’s roster. They did bring back two impactful power five players, Debron Gatling and Bryce Thornton, but that won’t be enough. They have a relatively young roster and a new head coach in Ben Reaves, yet they are battling for another region title and to go undefeated in region play once again.
“This one would mean more to me than any other, and not just because I am the head coach, but this is the team that everybody counted out. I think Friday we are going for our 29th straight region win and our 5th straight region title,” said Reaves. “This is the team everybody said would mess up the streak and wasn’t going to win the title. Everybody from players and coaches just bonded and said not on my watch. If we were able to get it done with these guys and kind of shock all the naysayers, whether in our community or outside, it would mean so much to me and the program. I think it would send a strong message about the program. Whether we have a roster full of division 1 athletes or a young team, we are a program that will find a way to get it done.”
Milton is 4-0 all-time against Lambert and last won 49-0 in 2019.
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