By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Trojans would be fourth regardless of the results of the contest. And the Mustangs secured the top spot in the Region beating Craigmont and Fayette-Ware. With pride on the line, the defending Class 4A State champion Mustangs were victorious 44-3 over the Trojans.
Millington (1-9, 0-3) had to incorporate new faces into its lineup like freshman and sophomore Malik Wooten and Monye Drake. With notable players like Tommy Clifton, Romello Thomas and Cameron Bryant already on the sidelines, other Trojans like Dylan Nix and Jonathan Faulkner were nursing pains while challenging East.
“Like every Friday night, we’ll pick them up off the turf and sees who’s left,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “How many are going to be able to dress and play next week after the injuries? We’ll practice all week and try to get ready for Haywood or whoever we’ll have next week.”
Before moving into the first round of the playoffs to likely take on the Haywood Tomcats, the Trojans faced the powerful Mustang running attack.
East (5-5, 3-0) used the running of Cailon McGhee for touchdowns of 25, 15, 37 and 10 yards. McGhee’s first three scores helped the Mustangs jump ahead 23-3 at the break. Millington received a 24-yard Stephen Carter field goal in the second quarter.
The Mustangs jumped ahead 31-3 after quarterback Justin Lynn scored on a sneak from the 1-yard line. Keveon Mullins added the two-point conversion.
Ahead 37-3, East closed out the scoring for the night when McGhee crossed the goal line with a 10-yard run.
Millington’s defense had a solid performance for most of the night. But special team errors, snapping miscues and two fumbles assisted East in the 41-point victory.
“It’s frustrating to no end,” Michael acknowledged. “You’ve just got things that continue to be problems. And it really is the little stuff. This group, they’ve just not have bought into the fact that this particular game requires great concentration and great focus to every little detail. And everything you do has to be to near perfection when you’re a team like us — young, inexperienced and with players who have never played before.”
Michael said his younger players have to challenge themselves off the field to become better football players. Then he wants them to be better prepared once they step onto the practice field.
“You hope your team is like a sponge as you give them time and knowledge everyday in the practice to prepare them for what they will have to face,” he said. “You hope they soak it up and it sticks. And it translates onto the field. But it seems we’re more like bricks. They get the coaching and the guidance throughout the course of the week. They get the game plan. And then when they get on the field, they’re good in spurts executing doing what they’ve been told to do.”
The veteran Millington coach said he hopes his players will be extra motivated in the First Round contest to play for their seniors. But with a roster full of underclassmen in key spots, he knows another lesson in size and experience will be on the agenda.
“Sometimes they get out-man and overwhelmed,” he said. “And that’s a part of the game and I can live with that all day long. As long as you’re doing what you’ve been coached to do and they man just whips you. You fought the good fight.
“But the thing that has driven me insane this year is the repetitive mental errors,” Michael concluded. “It’s just a lack of focus. And not being 100 percent in on what is your task play, after play.”