By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The good news for the Millington Trojans entering their first Class 5A playoff game was that it was in Millington on the Mooney Boswell Stadium field.
The sort of bad news was the team on the opposing sideline was the 8-2 East Mustangs. Entering Friday night, the Mustangs came into the game only suffering defeats to playoff teams White Station and Central. East boosted victories during the regular season against Southwind, Ridgeway and Whitehaven, all still alive after round one.
“I expected it to be a real physical game,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “They’re a real physical team that likes to run the ball. We knew we were going to have to bring our most physical game on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side. It was going to be a slubber-knocker.”
Neither team could break the 20-point mark. But East scored enough to advance 19-14 over the Trojans. Millington’s 2013 season comes to an end with a 6-5 overall record.
“There were some plays that swing the momentum here and there,” Michael said. “But for the most part it was a battle in the trenches. Execution in some key situations for both were good. Execution in some key situations for both teams were bad. We just came up on the short end of the stick with some plays we didn’t make. And they made some plays. It was just a hard-fought game.”
The No. 5 seeded East will play at Henry County this Friday on the road. The No. 1 seeded Patriots defeated Kenwood 52-8 in the opening round last Friday night.
The Mustangs (9-2) jumped out 7-0 against Millington after taking advantage of a Trojan fumble at the 28 yard line. East made the short march to the end zone capping off the drive with a Devante Turner 7-yard TD run with a minute and 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The first quarter was a turnover-fest with the Mustangs giving up one fumble and the Trojans a pair.
Millington (6-5) protected the ball better in the second quarter and tied the score at 7-7 when LaKeron Garcia scored on a 7-yard run of his own. The scoreboard read 7-7 at the break.
Midway through the third quarter East regained the lead at 13-7 when Turner crossed the goal line from 5 yards out on a pass from quarterback Marvellous Jackson on fourth down.
The next big play in the game came when East blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt returning the ball to the 14-yard line. To capitalize on the turnover, East fed the ball to fullback Roderick Fields for a 3-yard TD with 8 second left in the period to make the tally 19-7.
The Millington defense held East scoreless in the fourth quarter including a stop on downs. With 2 minutes and 58 seconds remaining, the Trojan defense came up with a big play giving Millington some hope.
Linebacker Dante Pitts intercepted a Marvellous Jackson pass near the East sideline. Pitts raced down the field to the end zone for the 40-yard pick-six to make the score 19-14.
But East was able to get enough first downs to run out the clock and end the Millington season.
The defeat marked the end of the high school careers for the Class of 2014. During their Millington careers, the Trojan seniors won a District 14-3A title, picked up a playoff win over rival Brighton as some of the highs. As for the lows, the seniors were the core of Trojan Football after the death of teammate Dana Payne in 2012 giving support for the class ahead of them and boosting the leadership for the grade just below.
“It’s a small group,” Michaels noted. “I didn’t have that many seniors. But that class has been a small group ever since they came off the freshman team. The small group that they are, they stuck together. They came to work everyday.
“The seniors showed up everyday to practice and put the work in,” he concluded. “On Friday nights they went out there and competed at their best, at a high level. They did everything they could to will us to win. I’m going to miss that, they were consistent in their work ethic. On Friday night, those guys were on that field just playing hard. You knew what you were going to get from them.”