By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — Two teams trying to find their identity stormed onto the lush turf of Bolton Stadium last Friday night.
Both the Bolton Wildcats and Millington Trojans feature youthful rosters trying to restore their programs back to recent glory days. Despite recent hard times, the Millington Trojans entered the 2016 season opener holding the edge over their rival from Bolton.
The host Wildcats were ready to end a 10-year losing streak to the rival Millington Trojans. Meanwhile the Trojans were looking to extend the straight, get off to a 1-0 start and build the confidence of roster full of young talent.
By the time the final buzzer sounded in Arlington, the black and blue of Bolton celebrated a 34-13 victory.
“Turnovers, ineffectiveness offensively, and trying to find a rhythm,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael noted, “we couldn’t find a rhythm tonight. We weren’t able to make any plays in the passing game. And they just loaded us up on the run — eight, sometimes nine guys in the box to stop the run.
“We did some good things in the run game,” he continued. “We just couldn’t sustain it. Ultimately with it being a 15-6 score, the turnovers started to mount up. And it just snowballed on us with the turnovers.
The first big play of the game made it appear the Trojans were going to continue their winning ways against the Wildcats. Millington senior linebacker Sam Stanifer picked off a Bolton pass and raced to the end zone for the first quarter touchdown to make the score 6-0 Millington.
Just a few seconds later Stanifer continued his hot start with a sack for a big lost ending a Bolton offensive drive.
The Trojans’ 6-0 advantage held for most of the first quarter until Bolton scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Fumbles ruled the sec
ond quarter for both teams. Bolton managed to increase its 7-6 lead late in the first half with a pick-6. The Wildcats added a two-point conversion to lead 15-6 at the break.
The Wildcats (1-0) added to their advantage in the third quarter courtesy of a Jameion Herron 4-yard TD run with 1:53 left. The score entering the fourth quarter was 21-6 in favor of Bolton.
In the fourth quarter Wildcat Kelvin Brown exploded for a couple of big runs through a fatigued Trojan defense. As Millington players battled cramps, Bolton offensive standouts had enough juice to make the score 27-6 when Brown scored on a short run to conclude a long drive.
The 27-6 score grew to 34-6 when Bolton score on another interception return to the end zone.
“They got scores off of us on the turnovers,” Michael said. “I think the inexperience and those kids wanting to make plays kind of started to press outside of the scheme of what we were trying to do. You’ve got to learn from it as young as we are and as much inexperience we’ve got at those spots that are handling the ball.”
Millington had the final score of the night when freshman signal caller Tommy Clifton connected with wide out Dayan Miller for a 23-yard touchdown with 7:48 remaining in the game.
“They kept fighting,” Michael said. “They didn’t hand their heads. But they kept making mistakes. But they kept fight, especially with our defensive guys. They went out there and made some stops. I was proud they kept fighting there at the end. We were four deep in some positions. We were playing JV with so many guys out with cramps.”
Trojans like linemen Chance Taylor and Nick Fenney had to play both sides of the ball. Others Trojans like Tyler Denson, Robert House and Stanifer played some ironman football throughout the night.
While those veteran Trojans logged several minutes in the opener, it was a memorable night for one Millington player making his debut. Despite some highlights, Clifton had a few moments worth forgetting.
“I don’t want him thinking about tonight,” Michael acknowledged. “It’s over with. There’s nothing that could come out of tonight that’s going to help him going forward if he dwells on the negative.
“If he’ll look at his film and practice hard, work on the things he needs to work and do the things he can do and is capable of doing,” he concluded. “He doesn’t need to try to do things outside of what he’s not ready for. He’ll be all right.”
Bolton will return to action Sept. 2 when against Memphis Central. Meanwhile the Trojans will head to Munford next Friday for the annual M&M Bowl.
IN OTHER ACTION
Munford 6 Covington 13 (Munford vs. Millington Aug. 26)
Brighton 42 MAHS 8 (Brighton @ Dyer County Aug. 26)
TRA 18 Tupelo Christian 35 (TRA vs. Greenfield Aug. 26)