By Thomas Sellers Jr.
SOMERVILLE — The 2020 Region 8-4A Game of the Year was originally schedule for Oct. 16.
Moved up a couple of weeks to allow both the Millington Trojans and Fayette-Ware Wildcats a chance to have leverage for rescheduling later in the month, the showdown for the championship lived up to the hype.
The two-time defending champion Trojans came to Wildcat Stadium set to make it a three-peat. But the host Wildcats jumped out 20-6 midway in the third quarter preparing to claim the 2020 crown.
Millington rallied back to deadlock the game out 20-20, but a late touchdown run from Fayette-Ware quarterback Kyle Lowe made the difference giving the Wildcats the top spot in Region 8-4A.
“Not capitalizing on the plays that were there,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said made the difference. “We dropped two touchdown passes there in the first half. We dropped a lot of balls. There were opportunities there and we knew they would be there. It reminded me of up there at Munford. Our first half performance reminded me of Munford.
“We made some more plays in the second half and then just had some bad errors on defense,” he continued. “Wrong fits, everybody going the wrong way direction. That’s all it takes when you’ve got skill players like their running back and quarterback. If you blow a gap and go the wrong way, you’re asking for trouble. Good players make you pay for that.”
Lowe and his backfield mate Atlantis Lax made enough big plays throughout the night to earn the championship for the Wildcats.
When the Shelby County Schools system suspended fall sports back in September, fellow Region teams Craigmont and Bolton were no longer on the 2020 schedule for the Wildcats and Trojans. That meant the contest between the league rivals would be for the championship.
The title game was 0-0 after one quarter but the Trojans were in scoring position as the second quarter began. Lax made a big defensive play intercepting a Millington pass inside the 5-yard line.
Then Lax made a big offensive player later in the second quarter with a touchdown run making the score 6-0.
About three minutes later Lax was back in the end zone with a 27-yard TD blast with one minute and 15 seconds left in the first half. Fayette-Ware was ahead 14-0.
“I really did want this one,” Lax said. “This has been a long time coming. We’ve been waiting on this and we’ve been practicing for games like this. We can only thank the Man above.”
Millington was thankful for getting on the scoreboard before halftime when kicker Eli Roberts drilled a 23-yard field goal. The Wildcats were ahead 14-3 at the break.
The way the first half ended was the beginning of the third quarter when Roberts connected on a 27-yard field goal to make the tally 14-6.
Less than 30 second later Lax was tried to snatch any hope away from the Trojans exploding up the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown run. The Trojans were facing a 20-6 deficit with 6:48 left in the period.
On Millington’s next possession, freshman quarterback McCoy Pugh drove his squad down the field and once the Trojans got into the Red Zone they cashed in this time with a touchdown. Marquez Flowers found a hole at the line of scrimmage and raced into the end zone for an 8-yard TD run to make the score 20-13.
The Trojan offense was still rolling in the fourth quarter setting up a field goal try that was no good. But Millington kept fighting and would tie the game on the next possession.
Trojan Reggie Caldwell found a crest in the Fayette-Ware secondary. Simultaneously, Pugh launched the ball toward Caldwell’s target for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
The score was 20-20 with 8 minutes and 58 seconds left in the game.
Fayette-Ware had an answer and the play of the game for the championship. All night Wildcat quarterback Lowe found space for big runs. His last large gain of the night was a 39-yard run with 7:17 remaining. Lowe crossed the goal line giving his team the lead again at 26-20.
“We just learned how to communicate,” Lax said. “If we listen to one or the other, we have to have faith in each other. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for our offensive line. Thanks to Cam, LJ, Brandon Andrews and Big JT. All those boys are going to fight until the end.”
Millington kept fighting but the defensive miscues, dropped passes and turnovers in the Red Zone was too much to overcome for the Trojans.
The 26-20 final made Fayette-Ware the champions of the league and Millington will be the runner-ups. Both teams will host a playoff game in November. Meanwhile the rest of the schedule is “to be announced.”
“We get to play Dyer County unless something happens between now and Friday,” Michael said. “They’re coming down here to play. So we’ve got to get some film and try to prepare for them. After that it’s fall break and then I’m chasing games. I’m still chasing games. I don’t know when, where, who it’s going to be or whether it’s going to be. I
“It’s going to be tough down the stretch because the 16th, 23rd and the 30th we’ve got nothing,” he concluded. “So it’s going to be tough. Not willing to travel across the state two or three hours. That’s not practical and plus it’s not feasible for us. If something shows up for us, it does. But it doesn’t, it is what it is.”