By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — The 2015 regular season has been a journey of adversity and endurance for the Millington Trojans.
The last scheduled stop on the road for the Trojans came at Raleigh-Egypt Stadium in Memphis with the road block of the Craigmont Chiefs waiting. Once again Millington Head Coach Chris Michaels used the combination of talented seniors and developing youngsters to take on another athletic opponent.
Despite falling behind early, the Trojans scored the final three touchdowns of the night to win 21-8. The victory over Craigmont improved Millington’s seeding in the Class 4A State Football Playoffs starting this Friday.
“It’s been a long run,” Michaels said. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. You’ve got new life now. Everybody is 0-0. Everybody will be teeing it up and you’ll give it your best shot. You play one week at a time.
“You don’t have anything to look forward to down the road but just this Friday night,” he continued. “I think our kids are excited about. We’ve practiced well the past two weeks. We’ve put in a lot of effort.”
Millington knew entering Friday’s game at Craigmont they needed a good effort to earn the No. 3 to avoid the opposing Region’s No. 1.
The victory over the Chiefs set up a match between the Trojans and No. 2 seeded Hardin County out of the opposing Region. The Tigers finished the season 9-1 with the only defeat coming to Region foe Jackson North Side 29-27 earlier this season.
Craigmont (1-9, 1-3) will travel to Jackson North Side to start the Class 4A State Playoffs. The Chiefs appeared to be heading to Hardin County taking an 8-0 lead over Millington Friday night.
Chief Brandon Fields gave Craigmont the second-quarter advantage scoring on a short run. He added the two-points to make the score 8-0 with 8 minutes and 36 seconds left in the first half.
It didn’t take Millington long to response. On the Trojans’ next play from scrimmage, Eldon Tyms dropped back and hit his favorite target Kip Fleming. The senior speedster did the rest breaking loose for a 74-yard TD reception to make the score 8-7.
At the 4:23 mark, the Trojans took the lead when Tyms scored on a 4-yard run. The Trojan signal caller set up his own TD run connecting with Greg Smith on a big pass play into Chief territory. Millington was ahead 14-8 at the break.
Millington (3-7, 2-2) added to its lead early in the third quarter when the combo of Tyms to Smith hooked up one more time. This time the duo combined for a 27-yard touchdown pass to make the tally 21-8.
The Trojan defense locked down on the Chiefs to earn the victory. Fleming also shined on defense with three interceptions deep in the Red Zone.
Also sophomore linebacker James Cox batted down back-to-back Marshall Massie attempts midway through the fourth quarter.
Cox had joined fellow underclassmen like Kyle Lindley, D’Monte Kemp, Jeremiah Russell and Pierre Newbern seeing a lot of time on the defensive unit.
“It’s been real tough,” Cox said. “We had to learn how to run the defense and do stuff right. We’re still learn and building. We have to still get bigger and strong. We have to work on things.”
Trojan upperclassmen like Fleming, Kameron Middleton, Prenston Macon, Jonathan Clements, Paul Robinson, Dedricz Perry and Nick Fenney have been gelling with the younger players over the past month.
With 31 seconds left in the game against Craigmont, Fleming picked off his third pass of the night to close out the game.
Fleming, who missed some time this season with a foot injury, took a moment to not reflect on the 2015 campaign.
“I feel better minus the injuries we had,” he said of surviving the 10 games. “As long as we forget about what we did in the season and take what we did tonight, going on the road and taking on whoever we play, I think we can push it going into the playoffs.”
Last season Fleming contributed to a Millington playoff win at Lawrence County. With the Trojans having to travel again, Fleming said it will take a cohesive effort again to pull off another postseason upset.
“It’s also reflecting on the coaches,” he said. “As long as they put in the right players and in the right positions, I believe we’ll advance in the playoffs. As for the seniors, it’s our job to make sure we and all the underclassmen do their jobs. We have to make sure they step up and do their responsibilities.”
Michaels said it will take turnover-free football, discipline and total focus for his team to pull off an upset on the road in round one.
“They did go through it last year, a long travel to go against a team who won their district,” he recalled. “We went into it with full confidence knowing we could get the job done last year. I expect our kids will have that same confidence this year.
“Now 3-7 is out the window,” Michael concluded. “We don’t worry about that. I know this team believes its better than its record this year. So I hope that focus is there for this week of preparation. If so, we’ll give ourselves a chance. It’s going to be about executing, playing hard and staying in that fight for four quarters trying to give ourselves a chance to win in that fourth quarter.”