By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Coming into Friday night’s game the headliners were Millington Homecoming 2012, Senior Night for the Millington Trojans, and even the arrival of unbeaten Jackson North Side led by quarterback Adam Craig.
The rescheduled Homecoming ended with senior Erin Clark being crowned queen. The seniors from the band, cheerleading squad and football team were honored. And the Indians managed to stay unbeaten winning 13-9 but the Millington defense stole Craig’s thunder and some of his headlines.
All season the JNS offense has racked up huge numbers and impressive scores. Craig acknowledge he could tell early points would be at a premium against the Trojans.
“Millington is a tough football team,” he said. “We knew that coming in. Their defense is great. It was nice to see that we could grind through a game and win a close one.
“I learn we have grit and that we’re not going to back down,” Craig added. “This is probably one of the best defense we’ve played all year. It just shows we can win close football games.”
The first drive of the night Craig lived up to the hype faking a handoff and taking off up the Millington Football Stadium field for a 54-yard run. A few plays later JNS jumped ahead 6-0 courtesy of a Marcus Maxwell 4-yard TD run. Millington did cut the deficit in half in the second quarter. Trojan quarterback Eldon Tyms completed a long pass to George Odum to the 10-yard line. That led to a Brendon Van Emelen 32-yard field goal making the score 6-3.
The Trojan defense kept the score close using different coverages to limit Craig’s passing game. And blitz from linebackers like CJ Harris and Johnathan Patterson pressure Craig in the backfield. Patterson tipped passes all night and made a sack.
“Defense I thought played great,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “We had a few breakdowns here and there. We worked hard all week. We knew they had a great offense coming in, a great quarterback coming in.
“We felt it was going to be the best team we’ve seen on our schedule this year,” he continued. “The kids work hard. The coaches coached hard. We had a good defense game plan. I thought they executed it.”
The Trojan defense execution made the halftime score 6-3. And the Millington defenders continued the solid play keeping JNS scoreless until the Indians took over the ball deep in Millington terrority.
With less than a minute remaining in the third period, the Indians were stopped twice on the one yard line. But on fourth and one, Craig drove over the pale and rotated with the ball stretched over the goal line for a touchdown.
The Indians were ahead 13-3 entering the fourth quarter. The lead appeared safe with the Trojan offense unable to move the ball. Millington had three players line up at quarterback. Joining Tyms were LaKeron Garcia and Allen Moore, returning from a shoulder injury.
It seemed whoever was lined up behind center Steven Artzer the Millington offense couldn’t put together a string of first downs. And Trojan senior running back Antonio Webber was neutralized all night.
“Eldon has done a good job for us since he’s been here,” Michael noted. “We’ve got Allen back this week and we’re slowly trying to intergrate him back in. Garcia comes in and he runs a little Wildcat stuff now and then. But the biggest thing is we’re still missing blocks. We’re still making bad reads at the quarterback position regardless of who’s in there.
“We had some receivers tonight make some plays,” he added. “But we also had some balls we should have caught that we didn’t catch. It’s just miss firing across the offense. It’s hard for Antonio to get going. Everybody that’s coming in is focusing on him. It reminds me of the Wing-T. They’ve got nine in the box and we’re not able to get the ball to receiver. We’re not able to protect our quarterback.”
With offense inactive, the Trojans were in need of some special help. And it came around the 7 minute mark of the fourth quarter when Odum scooped up a punt on the 24-yard line. One of the top sprinters in the state of Tennessee in track, Odum avoided a couple of JNS defenders and out ran the rest of the field for touchdown that made the score 13-9.
“It just shows we’re not perfect yet and we’re not where we want to be,” Craig said. “We still have stuff to work on in practice. It’s still nice to have a perfect record going into our last home game. You can’t ask for anything more.”
The Indians were able to remain unbeaten with their defense stopping the Trojans last two drives including an interception. Now the 9-0 Indians host district rival Hardin County this Friday with the title on the line. The Trojans (5-4) are in a similar situation heading to Arlington. Millington still had a chance to finish first place in District 14-3A and earn a playoff spot with a win this Friday against the Tigers. Michael said the records don’t mean a thing when it comes to Tigers/Trojans.
“It’s Arlington,” he said. “That’s enough. Arlington has become our rival this league. They’re always on the top, them and Craigmont. That triangle of games always has big inplications. It’s going to be no different this week.
“If we can win that game we’ll force at least a three-way tie in the Region,” Michael concluded. “Then the tie-breakers take over. But we need the win to force that tie-break situation. We also need that win to get a 6-4 mark and get into the wild card.”