By Thomas Sellers Jr.
But by the time the Trojans were walking off the turf of Mooney Bosewell Field, all the Millington players were melancholy. Despite being victorious 20-14, players like senior quarterback Tommy Clifton were thinking “what if?”
“The first half should have been 35-0,” he acknowledged. “The whole game we left about 50 points out there on the field. Thankfully for Bug for returning that kickoff. That was the game-winning score because we didn’t score after that.
“After halftime our defense came out and showed up,” Clifton continued. “We shut them out because we executed on the defensive side of the ball. We had the ball inside the two more than twice on offense and fumbled here, a missed field goal attempt. It was ugly but it was a win. All glory to God for the win and all my guys around me.”
In the first half the Trojans received touchdowns from Clifton, Damarion Dowdy and Adrian “Bug” Dowell.
Clifton scored on a short touchdown run. Dowdy took a handoff to the house and Dowell made a big play on special teams for a TD.
Trezevant (2-2) stayed within striking distance with two quick scored before halftime. The Bears got a 80-yard touchdown run and a Tyler Dillard TD reception to make the score 20-14 at the break.
“We challenged the defense to get off the field,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “And we struggled. But we kept them from scoring and ultimately that was the reason we won.”
Millington Defensive Coordinator Dodd Gengenbach employed heavy pressure from his defensive line of TJ Graves, Jeb Haley, Hunter Smith, Markees Flowers and more to disrupt the Bears’ Wildcat formation.
When those guys couldn’t limit players like Trezevant’s Tavion Starks, Millington linebackers like Hunter Lucas and Devin Knight were in the right spot to prevent a Bear score.
The Trojan secondary featuring players like Courtlyn Barnes, Contre Macklin, Milton Yarbrough and Dowell protected downfield helping Millington earn the win.
Moments after the final buzzer, the Trojans (4-1) gathered for the traditional post-game huddle in a somber mood.
“Their minds are heading the right way,” Michael said. “They’re not happy with how they performed tonight. And it’s not because they know the way we feel about it. They know they left a lot on the table. They know they missed a lot of opportunities.
“They know this was a team they should have put a lot more points on the board and kept a lot of points off the board,” he continued. “So they’re disappointed with their performance and that’s a good thing. What they’ve done is hold themselves accountable for the expectations that are in front of them. It’s not for effort. The boys played hard. We just did not convert on plays.”
Some of the moments Michael, the coaches and players will be haunted by could have been easily reversed.
“We had interceptions on balls we dropped,” Michael said. “We dropped touchdowns. We had wide open receivers and the ball just hit us in the hands. We overthrew wide open receivers which would have been converted into touchdowns. It was just missed opportunities. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. My boys played hard.”
Clifton said the Trojans are not just happy with getting wins anymore. The senior leader wants to see the team execute, be accountable at all times and give 100 percent each day leading to Friday night.
“If we get everything clicking, I think we could finish out 9-1,” he said. “I have that kind of confidence in all my guys. We’ve just got to get everything clicking together with offense, defense and special teams all at once. Some games we’ve had all offense then in more games we’ve had defense. Defense wins games and our defense puts out thanks to Coach Dodd. Now we’ve got to get going offensively.”
Michael said despite flashes of brilliance from one unit to the next, the 4-1 start is something to build from heading into the second half of the season.
“I think we’ve had young kids come along because we’ve got a lot of young kids playing,” he said. “They’re coming along and starting to believe in themselves. We’re starting to see it translate over to the field because they’re making some plays.
“But we’re still behind where I would like to see our upperclassmen and veterans be,” Michael acknowledged. “I’m pleased with our younger players who have mixed in. They’re doing what we’re coaching. They’re getting better and taking steps forward. But I am not pleased with the opportunities missed by our veteran players.”
With the FACS Crusaders coming to town for Millington’s Homecoming next week, Michael said his veteran players need to step up to make sure the night is special for those in black and gold.
“Our returning players on offense and defense are not taking advantage of the things right in front of them,” he said. “They’re not capitalizing on the plays and the opportunities to make plays the way they should be as returning players. That’s where we’re behind.
“We should have made about a dozen game-changing plays tonight,” Michael concluded. “And it was upperclassmen who where right there to make them. That’s the difference between a 20-14 and 50-8 ball game. It’s that easy. That’s got to improve. But I am overall pleased with our young guys playing a lot of snaps and improving on the field. We’ve got to get better because the competition is going to get a lot tougher.”