By Thomas Sellers Jr.
CORDOVA — Chopped up, muddy field, gray skies and 70-degree temperatures at kickoff made the perfect setting “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
But those melancholy conditions were the backdrop of the Millington Trojans’ visit to the campus and football stadium of the FACS Crusaders. Friday night the only excitement in the opening quarter was a missed 37-yard field goal by the Crusaders.
Then the Trojans picked up the pace and got things lively with a couple of big plays leading to a 28-6 victory.
“Effort was good but we were a little flat coming out to start,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “Offensively we didn’t have any emotion or any rhythm. Just kind of trenching along like we were playing in the mud.
“Defense kept getting stops but we didn’t put them in good position with the kicking game or the offense,” he continued. “They had good field position and we gave up a couple of big runs on a couple of missed tackles. Defense was able to hold them to field goal attempts. And unfortunately for them, he was off. He was short on a couple of attempts and off to the right on one of them tonight. Credit to the defense forcing them to have to kick field goals and not giving up any touchdowns. That was a good job by them.”
The Millington defense led by players like TJ Graves, JC Tramontozzi, Jeremiah Temple-Dowdy and Hunter Smith dominated the line scrimmage. Other Trojan defenders to hear their names on the public address system throughout the night were Devin Knight and Drew Hassenberg for making tackles near the line of scrimmage.
Millington’s secondary of Reggie Caldwell, Milton Yarbrough, Adrian “Bug” Dowell, Cortlynn Barnes, Perry Harold and Garrett Haley neutralized the FACS passing attack all night.
Some of those names from the secondary had big nights on the offensive side. Millington jumped ahead 7-0 midway through the second quarter when running back Marquez Flowers navigated through the Crusaders for a 15-yard TD.
Millington signal caller McCoy Pugh led a long drive down the muddy turf for the go-ahead score. On Millington’s next position Pugh used a scramble to hit Haley. The wide out saw the pocket collapse and made an adjustment to come back to the ball.
Pugh fired a strike into the arms of Haley and the speedster raced to the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown. Millington placekicker Eli Roberts drilled the extra point to make the score 14-0.
FACS had a couple of big plays in the first half. But missed field goals ended the drives for the Crusaders. Before halftime FACS had attempts of 28-yards and 34-yards not connect. Millington went into the locker room ahead 14-0.
“The special teams we had some good plays but we gave up too many yards in the return game puntwise and kickoff return, Michael noted. “We were missing tackles by tackling high. When you’re out in these sloppy conditions what you can’t do is tackle people around their shoulder pads. You will immediately slide off because there is nothing to grip. We kept tackling high, tackling high and tackling high. And we kept slipping off, slipping off, slipping off.”
Millington’s special teams and defense had moments of bad tackling. FACS’ units had moments of not even coming near the Trojan ball carrier. On the first offensive play of the second half, Millington’s Caldwell took a handoff 60-yards mostly untouched for a touchdown. Roberts was 3 for 3 and made the tally 21-0.
The Trojans (2-4) had some big defensive plays including an interception by Dowell. The senior athlete had another highlight in the first half tipping a Pugh pass to himself for a down-the-field reception.
The final highlight of the night for the Trojans came when Flowers crossed the goal line from 8-yard out to make the score 28-0. FACS scored with less than 2 minutes remaining to make the final 28-6.
When Millington headed to the end zone for the team huddle and breakdown, Michael broke the news to his team that the previously scheduled Fayette Academy game for Oct. 2 had been canceled.
“We would love to play every week and get 10 games in,” Michael acknowledged. “But right now it’s not realistic. My staff and I and my support staff have strapped high and low for games that would fit on our open date. So far we can’t find anything.”
Michael and his staff have even reached out to teams across the river and down in the delta. But Arkansas and Mississippi teams will be in Region play throughout October.
“The only thing we’ve been able to stumbling across is a couple of big 6A schools at the end of the season,” he noted. “And that’s counterproductive for us to go in and encounter a big 6A school right before we enter the state playoffs.
“Right now we’re going to play Dyer County in a couple of weeks and try to get better at what we do and prepare to play Dyer County,” Michael concluded. “But right now there is nothing out there. We’re stuck playing Fayette-Ware on the 16th. And that pretty much is it and I can’t find anything else.”