John Milledge Academy honored its 22 football seniors on the field before Friday’s game against visiting Valwood, and each of those seniors probably could have scored if JMA head coach JT Wall had allowed it.
The Trojans (5-0) walloped the Valiants (2-3) to a tune of 56-0, giving Wall’s team its third-consecutive shutout and fifth-straight blowout this season.
“We’re proud of the guys and the way they played,” Wall said after addressing his team in the locker room. “That’s including those second, third and fourth groups that came in during the second half. A lot of guys got to see the field tonight, and it’s a product of what they do week in and week out.”
Valwood isn’t some walk-over opponent, although it appeared that way Friday night. The Valiants perennially have one of the top programs in all of the GISA, including last year when they met JMA with the AAA state title on the line. The visiting school was, however, without arguably its best player in tight end Harrison Hamsley who was in COVID quarantine, but it would be a long shot to say one guy could make a significant difference in a 56-0 ballgame.
Wall’s Trojans put visiting Valwood in a hole from the very start. The perfect play call on third-and-11 resulted in a 71-yard touchdown as Grayson Hopkins found KJ Jackson on a screen pass on the very first offensive drive. That was less than two minutes into the contest.
Whereas John Milledge was firing on all cylinders early, the Valiants were totally out of sorts as they fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. The Trojan offense turned the first of what would be six Valwood turnovers on the night into points to go up 14-0 still very early.
Wall got creative on his team’s following possession, calling a tackle-eligible pass to senior Kevin Kitchens who nearly scored on the play, but fell just short of the goal line. Kitchens got his shot on the ensuing down though as he lined up in the backfield and walked into the end zone after taking the handoff.
“We’ve had that play dialed in for a long time,” Wall said of the tackle-eligible call. “It was there last year, we just didn’t really need it. It’s always good to reward those linemen every now and then.”
Seven different JMA players would score touchdowns in the first half. Highlights included a 70-yard TD rush by a streak named Patrick McDonel and a pick-6 that defensive back Taylor Dixon returned 50 yards for points in the second quarter.
Like every opponent the Trojans have faced so far this season, the Valwood Valiants of Hahira, Ga. were just overmatched. That extended into the second half when Wall fielded his backups. The big play of the last two quarters belonged to freshman Andrew Mullis, who, despite sporting a cast on one hand, hauled in an interception.
John Milledge was supposed to host Community Christian next week, but the small private school backed out of the contest due to low participation numbers this year. Wall is looking for a new opponent but has come up empty thus far.
“We knew a week or so ago, so we’ve been steady looking,” said Wall. “I told the guys that we may not know something about a game until Wednesday. We’re not approaching this like an off week though. We’ll practice like normal on Monday, we just won’t have the normal weekend preparation that we normally would as coaches.”
If John Milledge can’t replace the Community Christian game, the Trojans are scheduled to take the field next on Nov. 6 at region opponent Bethlehem Christian.