Collins kicks Spartans to 31-28 Battle of the Bell victory

Junior running back Zyaire Elliott drags a couple of Milford defenders with him on the way to the end zone Friday night. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

FELTON — With five seconds remaining in a 28-28 ballgame, Lake Forest High junior placekicker Kade Collins lined up for a 32-yard field goal attempt.

He had never made a field goal that long during a game before, but he drilled it through the uprights to give the Spartans a 31-28 victory over archrival Milford High in the 50th annual Battle of the Bell showdown Friday night at James H. Blades Stadium.

“I just wanted to do it for the team,” Collins said. “I knew I had to leave my worries behind and just kick the ball. I told people not to hype me up, so I don’t overwork it.”

“I just told him, ‘hey, I’m not even worried about it, I know you’re going to make it.’ I told those kids when I went out there that this is why we play high school football, to be in situations like this – 28-28, five seconds left, this is why we play this game. That’s a great situation to be in,” said Lake coach Fred Johnson.

“I already knew he was going to make that,” said senior running back JaJuan Reid, with a laugh. “He was making that in practice. I was just hoping they didn’t block it.”

With two seconds left after the successful kick sailed through the uprights, Lake’s defense made one final play to cement the victory and bring The Bell — the 52-pound trophy awarded annually to the winner of the Milford-Lake Forest Week 10 showdown — back to Felton after a two-year absence.

Milford (5-5) had won the contest in 2016 and 2017 by a combined total of 79-7.

Senior quarterback Shyron Salandy takes off on an option play against Milford’s defense.

Senior quarterback Shyron Salandy tossed for 31 yards on 2-of-7 passing and ran for another 85 yards for the Spartans (6-4).

“It’s my senior year, this is my last game that I’ll ever play here, I played with all my heart and did everything I could do, and we came out with the win,” Salandy said. “It was a very intense game, everyone had energy because it’s the Battle of the Bell, so we knew we had to bring the energy tonight.”

Reid wrapped up his high school career with 169 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against a stacked Milford front seven. He came up just 19 yards shy of 1,000 for the season.

“It feels great,” said Reid. “We didn’t win it for two years, so we really wanted it back. I was a little nervous heading in, but their defense couldn’t hold me.”

“I was worried about the defensive line coming in, because I saw how they played Delmar,” Johnson said. “Their front line is really strong, it was really strong last year and it’s really strong this year, but I’ll tell you what we found a certain formation and they didn’t make adjustments, so we just kept running it, running it and running it.”

Special teams played a key role early on, with the two offenses exchanging punts on their respective opening possessions Friday night.
Lake Forest fumbled the ball away on a punt return attempt at their own 12-yard line less than three minutes into the game, and it took just one play for the Bucs to cash in on the special teams gaffe.

Rodney Robinson trotted in for a 12-yard score and the extra point from Milford placekicker Jonathan Gaglione put the Bucs ahead, 7-0, at the 9:10 mark of the opening quarter.

Lake had a quick answer, as Reid took a handoff from Salandy and scored on a 34-yard touchdown on just the second play of Lake’s ensuing possession. It was a 7-7 score less than four minutes into the game.

Johnson and his coaching staff made a gutsy call, opting for an onside kick and successfully recovering at Milford’s 48-yard line on the ensuing kickoff.

Lake’s offense took advantage of a pair of 15-yard penalties called against Milford, driving the 48 yards down the field for its second score of the night.

Junior running back Zyaire Elliott punched the ball in from five yards out to give the Spartans a 14-7 advantage with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter.

Milford’s offense, led by freshman quarterback Shawn Saxon, orchestrated a 66-yard scoring drive that took 4:35 off the clock.
Saxon capped the drive with a 25-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Tyron Mifflin on fourth and 14 to tie the game up, 14-14, with 11:53 remaining in the half.

Salandy put together a lengthy scoring drive of his own, leading his offense 73 yards down the field in 6:04 to take a 21-14 lead. It was a two-yard score by senior fullback Chris Kennedy at the 5:45 mark that put the Spartans ahead by seven points once again.

The Spartans left points on the board to end the first half when the offense let time expire before getting one last play off at Milford’s four-yard line, heading into the halftime break with a seven-point advantage.

On the first play from scrimmage to begin the second half, Reid scored his second touchdown of the day on a 73-yard score. Collins’ extra point try put the Spartans ahead 28-14 with 9:16 to play in the third quarter.

Robinson’s second touchdown of the night, from five yards out at the 3:49 mark of the quarter, brought the score to within a touchdown and kept the Bucs in the game.

With just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Milford’s defensive unit forced a Lake Forest three-and-out and the Bucs took over at their own 38 yard-line trailing by just a touchdown.

Saxon led his offense down the field and junior Jabraih Luke knotted the game up with a 19-yard touchdown run at the 3:37 mark of the fourth quarter.

“We made some mistakes and kind of let them back into the game, but we played 48 minutes of Spartan football and made some plays towards the end of the game,” said Johnson.

Taking over with 3:30 remaining and with the ball at their own 24-yard line, Salandy made the most out of his final few snaps as a high school quarterback.

He led the team down the field to set-up Collins’ game-winner, eating up 3:28 of the clock in the process.

“The 2018-19 Lake Forest football team, we got The Bell back, which is something we weren’t able to do the last two years,” Salandy said. “So it’s a great accomplishment, to get it back at Lake Forest.”

“We ended on a good note to the season,” Johnson said. “The bell is home, we couldn’t ask for much more.”

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