By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With more flags than a Veteran’s Day parade, the Dyersburg vs. Millington Class 4A First Round game was a microcosm of the 2020 season.
The Battle of the Trojans was full of unpredictable moments, big plays, adversity and challenges. The Dyersburg Trojans traveled down Highway 51 to Mooney Boswell Field to take on the Region 8-4A No. 2 seeded Millington Trojans.
The No. 3 seed from Region 7-4A Trojans took the haymaker from Millington opening up with an 86-yard kickoff return touchdown courtesy of senior speedster Adrian “Bug” Dowell. Dyersburg erased that early deficit to prevail 57-27 and advance to the Second Round to take on the Haywood Tomcats.
Moments after closing out his final team huddle, Millington Trojans Head Coach Chris Michael tried to summarize the 11 games his team endured since August.
“It’s been adventurous,” he said. “It’s been hectic. There’s been a little chaos. But now that it’s over, it’s time to take a breathe and reflect on it some. It’s probably going to be one of the most challenging seasons I have ever been a part of.
“And it might be one of the most rewarding because just the way we had to battle through and see what our kids went through,” Michael added. “And how they just picked up no matter what challenge we threw in front of them. They weren’t scared. They battled a bunch of good teams and got on buses going far to play them. They never complained. They just showed up playing as hard as they could whether they were out-manned or not. It’s probably going to be really gratifying once I can just decompress and reflect on it.”
After Dowell put the Trojans ahead 7-0 with an explosive run up the Dyersburg sideline, it appeared Millington was going to dominate the first quarter when Millington senior linebacker Devin Knight forced a Trojan fumble. Knight’s teammate Garrett Haley recovered the fumble setting up Millington 47 yards away from a 14-0 lead.
Instead Dyersburg got a crucial turnover with an interception. Moments later Dyersburg running back Dontavis Vaughn scored his first of five touchdowns to deadlock the game at 7-7.
Vaughn scored on runs of 35, 28, 3, 28 and 6 yards.
The second touchdown of Vaughn made the score 20-7 by the end of the first quarter. Millington trimmed the deficit to 20-14 in the second quarter when Reggie Caldwell crossed the goal line on a short TD run.
Vaughn answered with a touchdown run after his teammate Israel Barbee broke loose for a big run. Barbee made the score 35-14 later in the first half with a 69 yard touchdown run. That was the tally at the break.
Dyersburg quarterback Graham Clark made the score 42-14 early in the third quarter with a QB sneak into the end zone.
Millington kept fighting when Caldwell used a huge block from Haley for a 29 yard run to the 3-yard line. Millington employed a quarterback keeper with McCoy Pugh scoring to make the scoreboard read 42-20.
Vaughn got back to work scoring his next touchdown to make the score 50-20. Millington closed out the third quarter with a Pugh to Haley 26-yard touchdown pass to make the tally 50-27.
Vaughn closed out the scoring for the night to make the winning margin 30 points. With the 2020 season coming to a conclusion, Michael had a message for his seniors.
“Thank you because it didn’t go the way we wanted it to do,” he said. “Of course it didn’t go the way they wanted it to go. Whenever you are a senior you want to finish on top and with a championship — all that stuff. I want to say thank you because it was a small group and they were in front of a large group. And their foundation should be something that is permanent in that group that is behind them.”
Michael said the members of the Class of 2021 had to face a global pandemic, changing schedule, unknown opponents and raising a young group of Trojans with leadership by example.
“That group of 21 freshmen is going to be a very good group,” Michael concluded. “And if they didn’t have this experience and go through this, I don’t think they’ll be as good of players. And if it wasn’t for this group of seniors showing them how, even though they didn’t know how either to navigate through all these challenges. They showed up and went to work. I think it was a great example they leave behind for the younger guys even though it didn’t end up in a winning season.”