There were just 67 seconds remaining when the defending champion Milford Spartans got the ball back on their own 40-yard line trailing 13-7 in the state football championship of November 1977. Winnacunnet had grabbed the lead with five minutes to go but failed to convert the extra point. Still, on what was a cold, muddy, and windy day in Milford, the lead seemed safe — especially given the way the Spartan offense had played. The team’s only score had come on a 99-yard kickoff return from Steve Burke in the second quarter.
But now, as the clock ticked down on the season, coach Paul Lavigne instructed quarterback Jay Sugar to throw the ball on every down, and suddenly, Milford began to move. A big 20-yard pass on a fourth and five to Dwain Dadoly put the ball inside the 25-yard line with just enough time to run one final play. Then, in a moment that would later be called “incredible, unbelievable, and storybook” by the Milford Cabinet, Sugar dropped back and lofted the ball to the back corner of the endzone where Pat Conran reached out and hauled it in, disappearing into the crowd for a touchdown. With the clock reading 0:00, the score was tied with the extra point to follow. Placekicker Shawn Gangloff, who would later admit to a stomach full of butterflies, booted the ball through the uprights, sending ecstatic fans streaming onto the field to celebrate one of this town’s most fantastic finishes.
The Spartans celebrate the improbable.