LAWRENCEBURG — Every point counts in the playoffs.
Millington Trojan place kicker Luke Bell knows that all too well. And after missing an extra point early in the fourth quarter last Friday night at Lawrence County, the senior kept his focus waiting on another chance.
His opportunity came with a minute and 27 seconds remaining in the First Round TSSAA Class 5A contest tied at 13-13.
Bell stepped out to the Lawrence County Stadium golden grass and calmly went through his routine. And with a powerful kick, Bell drilled the 22-yard field goal and sent Trojans to Round Two this week to face the Henry County Patriots.
“It felt great,” he said of the game-winner. “It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had all year. I’ve struggled, missed some and made some. But I made it when it counted tonight.”
The Trojans (8-3) made the three and half hour trip to Lawrence County with a couple pieces back in the lineup with quarterback Eldon Tyms and running back D’Monte Kemp.
The Wildcats, champions of District 8-3A, were ready for the challenge of the Trojans almost at full strength with a defense featuring lineman Eriq Hicks.
Hicks and Wildcats held Millington scoreless for almost the entire first half.
Lawrence County grabbed a 6-0 lead in the first quarter taking advantage of a muffed punt. With the ball on the 35-yard line, Wildcats quarterback Tanner Wray took off around the edge and raced to the end zone for the first score of the night.
The Trojans grabbed the lead late in the second quarter when Tyms connected with Demarius Curry for a 13-yard touchdown pass. On that drive Tyms hooked up with Curry for a big gain.
Tyms worked on his timing with all his receivers going 13 of 17 early on in the game. The last time the junior signal caller saw action was three plays against Kingsbury in early October. Tyms and the Trojans were ahead 7-6 at the break.
“I’m happy for these kids,” Trojans Head Coach Chris Michael said. “They fought through a tough second half of the season. We’ve got a little bit healthy. We’re still a long way from 100 percent. It was nice to have Eldon and D’Monte out there giving us what they could.”
Millington added to it advantage in the fourth quarter with another player making his return in Kemp. The sophomore speedster broke loose through the Wildcat defense for a 16-yard run to the goal line with 9 minutes and 39 second remaining.
Less than 3 minutes later Lawrence County tied the game at 13-13 with a 71-yard touchdown run from Marquis Lockridge.
“Defense played well again,” Michael said. “We gave up two blown (plays). We let them get around end twice. So we’ll have to fix that.
“That’s a good football team,” he continued. “They won their district for a reason. They’re a good football team, we’re on their field and we’re three hours away. I’m just happy to be able to scrap out a win.”
Helping with that win was the line play of defense featuring Claude Johnson, Paul Robinson, Angelo Pirtle and more. Linebackers Sam Sanifer, Patrick Macon and Dante Pitts kept the Wildcats’ Wing-T in check.
With 5 minutes and 44 second remaining in the fourth quarter, it was time for Tyms and the offense to win the game. The offense marched the Trojans down deep into Wildcat territory.
The stage was set for senior place kicker Bell to win the game with a 22-yard field goal try. Bell nailed the kick and gave Millington a 16-13 lead.
The Trojan defense closed out the game when cornerback Marcus Winston knocked down a Lawrence County pass on fourth down. Millington will advance to play Henry County in Paris.
“We got the job done as special teams and I knew the defense would do the same,” Bell said. “Moving on to the next round feels great.”
Throughout the night, the Trojans got big catches down the field from Curry. On the game-winning drive, Curry caught a pass from Tyms for 55 yards. And on defense Curry made an interception.
“I was pretty upset not making the All-Star team,” Curry acknowledged. “But I knew I had to show them for the playoffs. I have to keep that motor going. I didn’t have my quarterback most of the season. So when he came back and it was time to go.”
Curry said the offense is glad to have another week to build cohesion.
“We’re about to start clicking as an offense because it’s only going to get harder as we go,” he said.
Michael said the stats from the Lawrence County game clearly indicate his offense still has some work to do.
“It’s a little frustrating to be inside the 10 (yard line), five times and not get any points out of those trips,” he said. “We only put 16 points on the scoreboard. But that’s playoff football. You’re going to be in a dogfight until the end. Everybody in this bracket, a lot of good football teams in it. Everybody is trying to survive and advance.”
Millington did survive and has advanced to play Henry County this Friday in Paris with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Patriots earned a 24-6 victory over Munford in Round One of the TSSAA Class 5A Playoffs.
“I’m not looking forward to it from the financial side,” Michael acknowledged. “TSSAA, we’re going to go broke trying to pay for buses to get to where all these long trips are. But that’s what it is.
“It’s an experience for the kids,” he concluded. “They’ve worked hard. I know they would like be at home playing. But we didn’t win the games we needed to down the stretch to get a home field game. We’re get on the bus and head to Paris, Tenn. and try to figure out a way to beat them. They are the defending State champs.”
LAWRENCEBURG — Every point counts in the playoffs.