If Chafan Marsh wanted to Friday night, Milton High's head football coach had every opportunity to tell anyone that would listen, "I told you so."
Hired two years ago following a messy divorce between the school and Bobby Johns, Marsh has resurrected the Panthers. More proof came before a delirious home crowd at Haywood Hanna Stadium when Milton outlasted Niceville, 38-31 in overtime, during the Region 1-6A quarterfinals.
"This is highly rewarding, but I'm just so proud of these kids," Marsh said. "Look, I'm so proud to be their coach ... the other stuff, that's history."
The winning points were scored on the only play Milton (8-3) ran in overtime, but the extra session was forced following a furious finish by Niceville (6-4).
Trailing 31-16 when Milton's Roy Wise picked up an Andre Flakes fumble and carried it the final 12 yards to the end zone with 5:07 left in regulation, the Eagles stunned an overflow crowd.
Niceville drew within 31-23 with 2:20 play when Andrew Mitchell found Tyree McCants with a 14-yard pass. The Eagles remarkably forced overtime with 1:06 left when Demetrius Davis returned a blocked punt 46 yards and then converted the two-point conversion.
"It was crazy, and it shouldn't have happened that way, but we tried to focus on all the positives from the game, not just the negatives," Flakes said. "We had to go to overtime, but we were still playing, and that was the important part."
Milton needed only one play in overtime, as Wise went up the middle with a straight handoff and ran over two defenders to cross the goal line. Brandon Miller added the PAT for a 38-31 lead.
Niceville's possession ended on fourth down at the 2-yard line when blitzing linebacker Trevor Wheeler stopped Shi Kim Coward in the backfield.
The field flooded with fans as the Panthers won the program's first playoff game since 2007.
"It was nerve-wracking, but someone was going to make that play to seal it," Wheeler said. "This is just an incredible feeling ... This is unreal."
Milton took its first lead late in the second quarter led by Flakes.
Inserted into the backfield at quarterback in the Wildcat formation, Flakes led three series that covered 118 yards. One ended on his own 26-yard touchdown run, while another led to a 31-yard field goal by Miller just before halftime that pushed the Panthers ahead 17-13. Milton's first score came on a 37-yard interception return by Dejon Funderburk in the first quarter.
Flakes scored on a 10-yard run in the third quarter, while Wise picked up his fumble in the fourth for what seemed an untouchable 15-point lead in the final five minutes.
"How we got to the end doesn't matter, it's that we got there and these kids dug deep and found a way," said Marsh, whose team hosts Navarre in the Region 1-6A semifinals next week. "That's what's important -- they found a way."