By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — The rain soaked turf of Raleigh-Egypt Stadium was mixed with sweat from both the host Pharaohs and visiting Millington Trojans.
By the end of Friday night, Trojan tears got into the muddy mixture of the field with Raleigh-Egypt pulling out a 12-10 victory.
“When you mix inexperienced guys in with a bunch of new guys, the process doesn’t always go as fast as you want it to,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “It’s not just new guys. It’s some of the older guys who still don’t know how to win. They’ve been here for three years and are seniors. But they never won.
“They don’t know how to win,” he continued. “That success has always been outside of their reach. When it gets within their reach, they don’t know what to do with it. It’s trying to get out of your own way and just play football.”
Millington’s first drive of the night would become a microcosm of the entire evening. The Trojans did a lot of good things to move the ball into Raleigh-Egypt territory. But a fumble ended Millington’s procession and set up the Pharaohs.
Raleigh-Egypt (4-2) closed out the first quarter driving the ball deep into Millington territory. Early in the second period the Pharaohs capped off the drive with a Romal Webb 11-yard touchdown run making the tally 6-0.
The Trojans (1-5) secured the ball in the rainy conditions and cashed in on their second drive to take the lead.
Eddie Macklin set up Millington with good field position returning the ball 53 yards. The Trojans started at the 29 yard line and Jer’fonzo Smith rushed in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to make the score 7-6.
The rest of the first half went scoreless with Trojan Corey Smith making an interception in the end zone right for the horn.
Millington received another turnover in the third quarter when TJ Graves recovered a fumble. Moments later Trojan place kicker Rafat Morshid drilled a 25-yard field goal to make the score 10-6 in favor the Trojans.
Raleigh-Egypt finally solved the Millington defense in the fourth quarter going back to Webb. With 9 minutes and 23 seconds left in the game, Webb and the Pharaohs faced a fourth and long situation. Webb broke multiple tackles and found daylight to race into the end zone for a 35-yard score. The Pharaohs were ahead 12-10.
Millington had a few chance to win the game including a Tommy Clifton to Smith 38 yard connection. The Trojans had the ball on the Raleigh-Egypt 20 yard line.
Millington worked the clock down inside 3 minutes and set up a 38-yard field goal opportunity. But the ball came up a couple yards short. The Pharaohs were able to run out the clock and secure victory.
“It’s the stuff that’s not forced like a snap over the head,” Michael said. “You’re in field goal range but it’s third and long. You put the ball in the air. We have a spot to where we want to go with the football. Do not take a sack. Because if you take a sack you’ll be out of field goal range. And we took a sack.
“Fourth down and 14, the game is going to be our game if we get a stop,” he continued. “We know exactly what their play is. We called the play and lined up for the play. We had 19 people in position. At 19 different times nobody makes the tackle. Credit to their running back. He’s an outstanding running back. But that’s unacceptable.”
Michael noted his young offensive line got a crash course in working on the fly with the Raleigh-Egypt unorthodox and unstructured defense. The veteran coach said that lesson and the tough defeat all came in time for the first Region game next Friday at Fayette-Ware.
“They competed and fought hard all the way until the end,” Michael said. “I hate it for them because they were good enough to win this game. Even with all our people missing tackles and the missing linebacker. And everybody playing a lot of snaps, we were better conditioned than they were. We outlasted them until the end. We just didn’t make enough plays there at the end.
“I hope that heartache drives them to execute,” he added. “Like I talked about last week, cleaning up execution and stop making bad mistakes. Make your reads in the backfield, get your snaps to your quarterback, make good connections between the running back and the quarterback.”
Michael said execution will be the key to success at Fayette-Ware and down the stretch to win the Region title.
“Make your block on the perimeter when the ball is coming out there,” he said. “Make freaking tackles, we don’t tackle. We just don’t have bodies that can tackle well and consistent enough. That’s a flaw we’re dealing with.
“We’ve just got to get better and keep pushing forward,” Michael concluded. “We have to remember the ultimate prize is still right there in front of us. Through all of this that we have endured, we’ve come out of the back side and hopefully we’ll be close to getting everybody back. We’ll go into district play knowing we are good enough to compete and win our district. That’s what I want them to believe. Coming out of all this nonsense in week six, you are 1-5. But you are a good enough football team to run through your district. They need to believe that because they are. And they need to practice like that this week.”