By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 93rd season of Millington Trojan Football would begin under the lights of Mooney Bosewell Field with uncertainty.
Head Coach Chris Michael would suit up several young players on both sides of the ball. But the evening would have two sure bets. The Bolton Wildcats would provide tough competition in the 2018 season opener and most of the Trojan players would have to endure ironman-style football.
Overcoming cramps, turnovers, penalties and a determined Wildcat bunch, Millington earned a 21-13 victory.
“It feels great to start the season off getting a win,” Michael said. “No matter who you’re playing, if you can get that first one, it give you some confidence and momentum to go. It’s a tough road that we’ve go to go. We’re going to take it one week at a time. We’re going to try to get this team better. And we’ve got lots of room to get this team better.”
Millington and Bolton started off slow in the first quarter with both teams punting on their opening possessions. Then the Wildcats caused a couple of Trojan miscues recovering a muffed punt and all-purpose athlete Ryan Bevel intercepted a Millington pass.
Later in the first quarter Bevel made the score 7-0 in favor of Bolton from his quarterback position. He located teammate Amonde Crenshaw for a 43-yard touchdown reception.
In the second quarter it was the Trojans’ turn to take advantage of a miscue. Bolton fumbled and it led to a Millington scoring drive. Trojan junior quarterback Tommy Clifton hit wideout Eddie Macklin for a 25-yard gain to the one-yard line. Clifton closed out the drive with a quarterback sneak to even the game at 7-7.
Millington grabbed the lead at 14-7 at the 1:21 mark of the first half. This time the connection of Clifton to Macklin resulted in a 45-yard TD score.
The second half was a test of endurance for both teams. The third quarter went scoreless with Bolton and Millington trading punts and players cramping up.
“Mentally, it’s a whole another level,” Trojan fullback/linebacker Matt Thomas said. “It’s not anything you’ve ever experienced before in your life. You have to be there every moment of every minute of every play. You have to be focused all the time. So more stretching and more water for us.”
Down the stretch, the Trojan had enough to pull out the victory. Millington’s advantage grew to 21-7 when senior running back Jer’fonzo Smith took a toss from Clifton and raced to the end zone for a 7-yard TD. Smith attacked the Bolton defense all night finally hitting paydirt in the fourth quarter.
The score came in handy as the Wildcats went to Mr. Do-It-All Bevel to drive the ball down the field. Bevel cashed in with a 21-yard touchdown run with 8:48 left in the contest.
Bevel missed the extra point from his place-kicking duties and the score remained 21-13.
“The good thing we got through a lot of the deficiencies and mistakes we had to get a win,” Michael said. “Which we didn’t do a lot of last year. Bolton is a lot like us. They’ve got some young players. They’ve got some good players.
“Probably a weapon at quarterback who will be the most dangerous we’ll see all season,” he added. “He was really a challenge to keep out of the end zone every time he touched the ball. I’m real proud of our defense and they were able to get some stops, particularly in the end.”
The Trojan defense was able to stop Bolton’s last two attempts to tie the game. The Wildcats were forced into an incomplete pass with 59 seconds remaining. The Trojans took over on downs and closed out the game kneeling.
“It took everybody,” Thomas said. “This is not a one-man sport. It took every man doing his job.”
Michael noted it was a team victory loaded with flaws.
“Getting started quicker,” the veteran coach noted. “Tommy admittedly said, being off a year and first game back after basically missing a year, he had jitters. He was nervous. He finally settled down and made some good decisions. He started drives better.”
Michael said a couple of key players will return in the near future and that will help things settle down for the offense. Going into Game Two, the M&M Bowl, with an 1-0 record should help the confidence of the young Trojans.
“You never know with kids of today what sticks or how they process what they just went through,” Michael said. “I was telling them going down that sideline as we were in this last drive right here. The coaches were saying some different things.
“I just turned and looked at my kids, ‘It’s time we learn how to win a game,’” he continued. “’It’s time we do the things on the field. We’re in position to win a football game. It’s time we learn how to do it. The only way to learn how to do it is go out on that field and get it done. Let’s finish the game.”
The Trojans were able to finish off Bolton to enter next Friday’s game at Munford 1-0. The Cougars will be looking to bounce back after suffering a defeat to rival Covington.
Thomas said the players have to come into M&M Bowl week focused.
“Same thing this past week but we have to cut back on the mental mistakes,” the senior concluded. “We have to cut out all the goofiness, cut all out the silliness. We have to get out there and work.”