By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With the score 35-0 in favor of Millington by halftime, the Trojan faithful were a few minutes away Friday night from celebrating the program’s first Region championship since 2011.
Millington scored two more touchdowns in the season half to defeat the East Mustangs 49-0. Then it was time for the Trojans players, coaches, faculty, administrators and supporters to rejoice. Instead of a wild celebration, those in Black and Gold embraced each other and the moment of being champions.
“We put in a lot of work for this,” Millington senior lineman Kaleb “Big Mac” Macklin said. “For the past three years, it was building on a new program to get to where we are now. I just want to thank the people from the last three years who helped us get to this moment.
“Those three bad years didn’t do anything but make us want to work harder,” he continued. “I just want to give a shout out to all my teammates of the past.”
In recent years the Trojans have played one of the toughest schedules in Tennessee taking on teams like Germantown, Munford and Dyersburg. Millington was 1-9 in 2017. The victory over East was the Trojans’ fourth in 2018. Millington even had shots for more wins against teams like St. Benedict, Bartlett and Raleigh-Egypt.
“It’s satisfying because it’s what we’ve been talking about since the beginning,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “I knew the schedules have been really tough these past couple of years. Teams on the schedule have had a really good run. Our own district, East has been dominant three seasons in a row. Craigmont has been difficult. And with us trying to rebuild things back, it’s really gratifying for the kids.”
Millington (4-6, 3-0 in Region 8-4A) seized control of the game and championship with 35 points in the first half. The Trojans got touchdowns from Corey Smith, Jer’fonzo Smith, Johnny Mattox and Reggie Caldwell.
Millington quarterback Tommy Clifton threw for two of those scores. And the junior signal caller added a rushing TD to make the halftime tally 35-0.
East (0-10, 0-3) couldn’t stop the Trojans in the second half with a running clock. Kyle Lindley got into the scoring mix with a short TD run from the fullback position. The senior’s 2-yard run made the scoreboard read 42-0.
The night concluded with Jer’fonzo Smith’s 18-yard breakaway run to paydirt making the final 49-0.
“This is something we haven’t been able to do for a long time,” Millington senior Cameron Bryant said. “It means a lot to us. I’m just glad this group that we’ve had for the last three years, my senior group, this means a lot to our team. This means a lot to us. We’re all brothers.
“ I’m just glad we all got a chance to come together and do something we haven’t done in a long time,” he continued. “I’ve never been on a championship team. This is really exciting for me to do this with the group of guys I did.”
Bryant and Macklin took a moment to express gratitude and appreciation to Michael and staff for the achievement.
“Especially for Coach KJ (Cobb),” Macklin noted. “He had a tough loss this week. Everybody came together as a team right then and there. It was another recall for this team. At the beginning of the year I told you we were striving to be a team, a family. As the season progressed, we kind of declined in that. But seeing one of our coaches in pain brought us back together. We’re back. The brothers are back.”
Bryant said during the winless Region years, the coaches still showed up everyday to invest in them.
“We had a lot of people give up on us,” he recalled. “They never gave up on us. They come up here every weekend and they take time out of their weekend and life to stay up here extra time. They take time during the week.
“We have Coach KJ come up here on Sundays to work with our skills,” Bryant added. “It just means a lot to give something back to them after they’ve given so much of their own personal lives for us.”
Michael said the coaches do it for the love of the players and the game. The veteran coach said it was nice to see his players enjoy a reward for their hard work.
“It’s kind of like what East feels like this year,” he acknowledged. “We were 1-9 and we had to play a playoff game. We really didn’t deserve to be there. But this year having won the district and playing a lot better football, we feel we’ve earned our spot this year. Last year you put us in because you needed to fill out a bracket. This year we earned a spot in this bracket. So it’s much more gratifying.”
Bryant said it will be even more gratification if the stands are packed next week at 7 p.m. for the Ripley Tigers.
“We’re trying to be one,” he said. “I feel like the who entire season, that has been our motto. Since summer camp, we just didn’t want to be ‘One Trojan’ but be ‘One Millington.’ And a big part of that was getting our first home playoff game. We’re going to be able to bring the community together. And it’s going to be a great feeling.”
Macklin gave a person invitation to next week’s TSSAA Class 4-A First Round game to all former Trojans.
“I want to give a shout out to all my teammates of the past,” he said. “I want all of them to come out there. I want all my family, all my family members of the past to come out here. This will mean a lot to them too, not just us. They can bring the whole community together.”
While residents of Millington and Trojans make plans to attend the 2018 playoffs, Michael and staff will be a work planning for the Tigers (3-7, 1-3) to come to Mooney Bosewell Field.
“Coach (Justin) Cruse and I got together last year,” he said. “We’ve been scrimmaging each other the last off-seasons since he took over up there. We’ve already lined up to play next season during the regular season schedule. We know what they’re going to do. They know what we’re going to do. We scrimmaged each other twice since 2017.
“They were here scouting us tonight,” Michael concluded. “So it should be a really good match up. They’ve got some really good size and really good skills. For us it is somebody we feel we can compete against. But we have to play a really clean game and not turn the ball over. We’ll have to tackle well because they have a really good running back and an elusive quarterback.”