By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Before the Dyersburg Trojans made the trip Friday night to Mooney Boswell Stadium, the Millington Trojans were primed to reach advance to the Second Round for the first time since 2014. Last season the top seeded Millington team were defeated at home by the Ripley Tigers.
Entering the 2019 playoffs as a one-seed again, the Trojans from Shelby County were determined not to repeat history.
“The experience of being there and having a team who earned it’s way there and felt like they had a chance to win that game it was just new,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “The previous two years with Markees (Flowers), Tommy (Clifton) and the rest we were getting in with a record of 2-8 or 1-9 as the four seed. We didn’t haven’t any business being in the playoffs those years. We play in a league where they take four and we go to Haywood, a No. 1 team in the state. And that was brutal on those guys.”
Those experiences motivated Millington to outscore Dyersburg 20-8 in the final 24 minutes to earn a 46-29 victory and Second Round showdown with Crockett County.
“Last year, they bounced back playing a tough schedule,” Michael said of his Trojans. “They won their district and felt like they earned their way into the playoffs. It was a hard fought game against Ripley. They felt like they could do this. So the confidence from that game last year made them believe coming into this game, we definitely belong and we’re going to do this.”
Earning a First Round victory began on the first play from scrimmage. Millington senior quarterback Tommy Clifton kept the ball on the Read Option and found a couple of holes to break loose for a 65 yard touchdown run to make the score 7-0 just 20 seconds into the game.
The Trojans from Dyer County finally deadlocked the game at 7-7 a quarter later. Trenard Shorter tied the game on a 5-yard TD run.
It took Millington 24 seconds to regain the advantage. At the 10:44 mark of the second quarter Clifton exploded through the Dyersburg defense again with a 68 yard run to the end zone. The Millington Trojans were ahead 14-7.
Dyersburg (3-8) had a quick response tying the game again with 9 minutes and 16 seconds left in the first half. Sam Porter caught a 33 yard touchdown pass to even the game at 14-14.
That set the stage for Clifton once again. The senior used his legs for a third scoring run achieving an 11-yard TD to cap off a long drive. Millington (9-2) went ahead 20-14 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the half.
Millington’s missed extra point gave Dyersburg a chance to score and take the lead. The Trojans from up North did exactly that when Porter caught his second touchdown of the night this time from 12 yards away. Dyersburg grabbed the 21-20 lead with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Refusing to go into the locker room trailing, Millington called a reverse placing the ball into the hands of speedster Adrian “Bug” Dowell. The junior wide out hit the corner and raced up the sideline from 61 yards out take a 26-21 lead at the break.
The seesaw battle appeared to be a trend continuing into the second half. Dyersburg regained the lead less than 5 minutes into the third quarter when the Trojans earned a touchdown and converted a two-point try.
Millington faced a 29-26 deficit. It was time for Clifton to pass his team to victory. Using his arm and “secret weapon” Reggie Caldwell, the hometown Trojans were on the path to the Second Round.
Caldwell had missed a few games this season because of injury. The junior athlete hauled in a slant pass around the 7-minute mark of the third quarter and broke a tackle to score from 63 yards away.
Millington jump back into the lead at 33-29. The duo connected again in the fourth quarter to give Millington more of a cushion.
Just 6 seconds into the final period, Clifton threw picture-perfect pass to a spot in the end zone. Caldwell ran his pass pattern to the spot and was able to make the grab with a defender attached to him for the 26-yard TD.
The Millington 40-26 lead grew to 46-29 a couple of minutes later when the Trojan defense forced a fumble. That turnover transformed into a Marquez Flower 6-yard touchdown run.
“It was a game that we felt like if we come out here and executed, we felt like we could win,” Michael said. “That Wing-T, I did it for 10 years. It’s a counterpunch offense. Whenever you shift defense, they would hit you on the weak side. Mark does a great job with his offense. He’s lost some guys to injuries and has struggled the back half of the season. But he’s still put his kids in great position to be successful.”
The Trojan defense lead by players like TJ Graves, Hunter Smith, Hunter Lucas, Romiello Thomas, Devin Knight, Cortlynn Barnes and more made the changes to limit Dyersburg to one score in the second half.
“Our kids were fortunate enough to keep sticking to it and having to make adjustments,” Michael said. “It was a back and forth type of game. Fortunately for our offense, we were able to take advantage of their defense and make some big plays. There were a lot of points out there for us to get. I felt like we left some of them still on the field.”
Millington will need all the points it can get next Friday hosting the Cavaliers from Crockett County. Crockett County advance after beating the Bolton Wildcats 56-0.
Keys to victory for the Trojans against the Cavaliers, Millington offense needs to control the ball and eat up the clock. The defense has to be disciplined and stay in the running lanes.
“Proud of the offense,” Michael said of his team against Dyersburg, proud of the defense and I think the kickoff coverage team did a good job of putting them in bad field position and creating an opportunity for more turnovers.
“We missed a couple of extra points,” he added. “I don’t know what it was — the hold or something else. We have a few things to work on and another challenging offense in Crockett County. They’re triple option, it’s another one of these responsibility things that we have to be really good in practice this week.”