By Thomas Sellers Jr.
But all the joy was sucked out of Fayette-Ware Football Stadium in the opening seconds when Millington Trojan safety Zeb Marvin recorded a safety. Then when Trojan signal caller Tommy Clifton connected with receiver Josh Allred for a 21-yard touchdown a minute and 30 seconds into the contest, the visiting Trojans were ahead 8-0.
The Wildcats rallied to savage Homecoming 2018 outscoring Millington 14-0 at one stretch of the first half. The Trojans managed to deadlock the game before halftime.
Then the first Region 8-4A contest for both squads became a 24-minute battle. Millington won the second half 21-0 to prevail 35-14. Trojan Head Coach Chris Michael said he was glad to see his players overcome the woes of the second quarter to earn the league victory.
“They just got some energy about them,” he said. “They were sluggish, lackadaisical. Fayette-Ware came out, it’s Homecoming and a big home Region game for them. They had a lot more fire coming out. We had some plays right off the get go and got our energy level up. But we didn’t sustain it.
“They came back and drove it the length of the field and scored a touchdown taking all of that momentum away from us,” Michael continued. “Then we just didn’t respond there in the second quarter. It was a slugfest back and forth between us.”
After the Trojans went ahead 8-0 early in the first quarter, Fayette-Ware (1-5, 0-1 in Region 8-4A) collected itself behind the running of Timmyus Hill. Hill concluded a long Wildcat drive at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter with a 1-yard TD. Hill added the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8.
Midway in the second quarter Fayette-Ware took the lead courtesy of a Wilzarius Terry Jet-Sweep run to the end zone from 4-yards out.
Behind 14-8, the Trojans (2-5, 1-0) went to the air again to tie the game. Clifton located Zeb Marvin over the middle for a 41-yard touchdown pass with a minute and 20 seconds remaining.
The halftime tally was 14-14. That gave Michael and the rest of the coaches a chance to challenge the players. As the Fayette-Ware Homecoming court was on center stage, the Trojans were in the back end zone getting rave-up.
“We challenge them at halftime trying to get them motivated and get some fire in their behinds,” Michael said. “They came out, responded and did what they needed to do.
“The first half of the season sucked when you’re playing a bunch of good teams,” he added. “You can’t get over the hump. You’re taking losses. First they have to believe in each other. Which I think they did because we would not be in this position right now. Then they’ve got to be able to show up each week. We don’t have a big group of seniors but they do show up every week. They put in the work and the rest of them are right there behind them.”
Behind the Millington offensive line, the Trojans drove down the field to start the third quarter. Mixing in runs with Clifton and Jer’fonzo Smith, Millington went ahead 21-14. Smith capped off the drive with 7 minutes and 10 seconds left in the period with a 15-yard TD run.
“What change was they started giving Tommy the ball more in order to take some of the pressure off of me,” Smith noted. “We’re both powerful runners. And we’re much better when we work as a team. We’re able to take pressure off the other and it leads to the end zone. The O-line gave me 100 percent. They gave me all they’ve got. I told them right before the second half, ‘You give me all you’ve got, I’m going to give you all I’ve got.’ It worked for us.”
The defense started to play with more energy and neutralize the running attack of Fayette-Ware. Limited in the running game, the Wildcats took to the air. That decision cost them with Marvin making an interception for his third big play of the night.
“That safety in the beginning got us going,” Marvin recalled. “But for some reason we just couldn’t contact. Our linebackers weren’t getting downhill, our D-line wasn’t coming downhill. They were coming to our secondary before our D-line or linebackers were getting to them. That’s a big problem in football on any level.
“They ran it on us, ran the whole field on us,” he continued. “They got some good plays. They just ran, ran, ran. But like Coach Michael said, the seniors came together after halftime and just led it. It all came to a stop, we just got tired of it.”
Marvin said Millington was prepared to win the second half in all phases of the game.
“It was the whole motivation,” he said. “Linebackers were coming downhill. The defensive line was coming off the edge and stopping them for five yard losses. They were much more aggressive than the first half. We were just making stops, dominating.”
Marvin’s interception set up Millington’s next score. With Allred under center, Clifton took a handoff from the tailback position to cross the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown.
The score was 28-14 heading into the fourth quarter. The Trojans iced the game when Clifton launched his third touchdown pass of the contest. On the receiving end was speedster Corey Smith from 20 yards out.
“When you go into the game, you’ve got to believe I’m going to score,” Jer’fonzo said. “It’s not try. Try ain’t going to get it. You’ve got to want it. Every game I say I want a touchdown. Every game I say I want to win. It’s that ‘I want’ attitude what’s going to keep us winning and lead to us being Region champions this year.”
If Millington is going to win the Region 8-4A title, it must beat Craigmont this Friday at home with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Chiefs, unbeaten in league, will come to Flag City for Millington version of Homecoming 2018.
“You can’t do anything about all the stuff that goes on during Homecoming Week,” Michael said. “I guess you let them have their time during school during the week. You let them have fun with that. But when it comes to the afternoon between 2-5 p.m., practice time in our time.
“We have to focus on Craigmont and do the things we need to get done in order to prepare to win the game,” he concluded. “All that other stuff in the stands in for the people. But they’re really there to watch us win a ball game. They want to watch us play and play well. And you have to prepare Monday through Thursday for that.”