By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — Several Arlington Tigers had the Millington game to conclude the 2012 season marked on their schedule.
But after a 28-7 loss to the Bolton Wildcats the previous week, the contest against the Trojans had increased importance beside revenge.
“The difference in this game, we felt like we let everybody else down last week,” Arlington defensive back Drew Erwin said. “Coming into this game, we wanted to start off with intensity, keep the intensity throughout the whole game.”
The Tigers scored within 2 minutes against Millington and held on to win 21-13. The victory not only helped Arlington avenge a double overtime loss to the Trojans from the previous year, but the win gave the Tigers the 2012 District 14-3A championship.
“Last year was real upsetting because we lost to them in overtime,” Erwin recalled. “I actually broke my hand and didn’t play in that game. I was coming for vengence. I wanted to play this game and make a difference.”
Erwin made a difference with a pair of interceptions. Both the Tigers and Trojans caused several turnovers throughout the game. Millington DB Tevin Oliver had a couple of picks of his own.
Both teams caused fumbles and stopped the offenses on downs. But the Tigers had enough offense from start to finish to prevail on top.
For the third week in a row Chris Michael’s Millington bunch were on the wrong end of the score. The Trojans (5-5) watched the Craigmont game slip away on a late touchdown pass. The next week the unbeaten Jackson North Side Indians outlasted Millington 13-9.
“It’s been an uphill battle all year,” Michael said. “It’s been one thing after another. The kids fought hard. We played a lot of inexpreinced young kids all season long. We knew we were going to have a struggle all year long with the the change in the offense.
“We knew we were going to have a struggle with the young offensive line,” he added. “And we got to the meat of our schedule and the competition rised. We didn’t make enough plays to get any of those games. We were in all those games. We just couldn’t make the plays when we needed to.”
Michael and staff had to prepare freshman quarterback Eldon Tyms the last month of the season to play Trezevant, Craigmont, JNS and Arlington. Quarterbacks Nick Hunt and Allen Moore went down to injuries opening the door for Tyms.
“I’m disappointed because everyday we go to work we feel like we’re better than what we’re showing out here,” Michael said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t’ get a lot of breaks. But you’ve got to make your own breaks. We played some good football teams these last three weeks. We fought hard. We just didn’t have enough to get over the top.”
Millington ran out of steam Friday night with injuries to key seniors Johnathan Patterson and Antonio Webber. But they were assisted off the field, the Tigers build a lead.
Arlingto got off to a quick start when quarterback Hunter Sheffield connected with receiver Justin Boring for a 21-yard TD in the first quarter. Boring’s overall effort against Millington put him over the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the season, a first in Arlington history.
The 7-0 Arlington lead didn’t last for long. At the 5-minute and 43-second mark of the opening quarter Tyms threw a deep ball over the middle to a wide open Myron Threlkeld for a 47 yard touchdown.
The first quarter ended 7-7. Then Arlington regained the advantage in the second quarter when Sheffield found wide out Omauri Hampton for a 1-yard TD pass.
The Tigers went into the locker room ahead 14-7. After a turnover filled third quarter by both teams, Arlington used the connection of Sheffield to Hampton to build the lead to 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
Millington made a late rally with Moore in relief. The senior signal caller came into the game and found receiver LaKeron Garcia on a fourth down and 10 play for a 32-yard score. But the Trojans could only cut into the deficit at 21-13.
Millington dropped to 5-5 overall and had to head back to home with its playoff destiny in the air. The results of pairings and seedings was going to be announced the following day.
“Whether we play any more this year or not, I hope these young kids take this season and learn from it,” Michael said. “And take these experiences, close games and all these close losses that we’ve had and just kind of meditate on them, let them soak. Then come back with a renewed passion and try to finish things out.”
The Trojans’ 2012 season started with the tragic death of sophomore Dana Payne the week of the season opener. Millington players had to endure a funeral, injuries on the field and distractions all season long.
“It’s just a job, but it’s a job I love,” Michael said. “The most important thing to me is those 65 kids that come out everyday. Whether we win everyone of them or lose everyone of them as long as we’re doing something positive in those kids lives and we’re changing them and they’ve got a chance and believe in themselves. We’re trying to instill confidence, maturity and all the different things you get from this game.”
Michael said through the emotion and physical pains his team also kept fighting.
“No. 1 for us, particularly this year with what all we’ve been through, is the well being and the mental health and the spirit of our young men,” he said. “We were making sure they didn’t put their heads down and give into defeat. That they just continue fighting. That’s what you get out of this game. This is a game of life.
“Everything that you experience out here on this 100-yard stretch of grass is the same thing that is going to punch you in the nose when you’re 30 and 40 years old,” Michael concluded. “They have to learn how to get up, pick themselves up and keep fighting and don’t every give up on themselves or their teammates, their family or friends.”
The Tigers left the field champions and knowing they would at least host a playoff game. And for players like Erwin the walk off the field was bliss.
“It’s a great feeling,” he concluded. “I can’t describe it. It’s just an amazing feeling.”