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By Mike Scott
Milan’s 2023 football season came to an end in the Class 1 semifinal at North Platte in Dearborn, Missouri on Saturday.
Both teams came into the game with 11-1 records and very similar season stats, so fans knew they were in for a battle.
Milan scored first, taking advantage of a Panther fumble at the 25 yard line. The Cats worked inside the ten, then Carlos Cotto put Milan on the board with a four-yard run with zero time on the clock, giving Milan a 7-0 lead.
North Platte took less than three minutes to answer, taking an 8-7 lead.
The Panthers would take a 16-7 lead with 1:01 left in the first half.
Milan responded with a 57 yard touchdown pass from Hunter Reed to Keaton Weter, and with 46 seconds left, Milan had closed the gap to 16-14.
North Platte scored again with just one second left to take the momentum and a 24-14 lead into halftime.
The Panthers scored on their first possession of the second half, extending their lead to 31-14.
The Wildcats anwered eight plays later, with Cotto breaking through with a long TD run. After the kick, the score was 32-21 with 7:21 on the clock in the third.
The Panthers struck quickly, scoring 30 seconds later to pull ahead 38-21.
Milan mounted a solid drive in response, scoring with 3:47 left in the quarter, on a nine yard run by Cotto.
The Panthers made a rare mistake on the kickoff, and started their next drive from their own four-yard line. 13 plays later they scored, extending their lead to 46-28 with 10:058 left in the game.
An interception ended Milan’s next possession, but they got the ball right back with a fumble recovery by Caleb Pearce. The Wildcats scored on a pass to Weter at the goal line. A two-point conversion fell short, and the score was 46- 34.
North Platte tacked on one more touchdown as time wound down to make the final score 54-34.
The Wildcats will say goodbye to 14 seniors: Alex Marquina, Ahmet Niasse, Carlos Cotto, Jose Carlos Garcia, Jerson Lopez, Kamden DeRyke, Cesar Mputu, Jackson Smith, Don- Divan Ngombo, Jared Gonzalez, Taylor Trenter, Rodrigo Peralta, Adan Callejo, and Anthony Wilson.
Congratulations seniors on all your hard work and success, and to the entire Wildcat team for a great season.