EATONTON, Ga. — John Milledge football fans have grown accustomed to hearing Lionel Richie’s 1983 hit song “All Night Long” at home games when running back Amaad Foston moved the sticks.
With the All-State player still out with a leg injury suffered in the preseason, the catchy track may need to be repurposed for when the JMA defense pushes opposing offenses backward because it’s happening so frequently. It happened a lot in Eatonton Friday night, especially early, when the Trojans (4-0) clashed with the Gatewood Gators (3-1) as head coach JT Wall’s team got its second consecutive shutout of the season in a 40-0 victory over the reigning GISA AA state champion Gators.
“I can’t say enough about how the defense played — all 11 of them — and we were rotating a few other guys in there,” Wall said in a postgame phone interview. “Those guys were playing hard, sound Trojan football the way it’s supposed to be played.”
The Gator triple-option offense was simply outmatched by the faster, more physical Trojan defense coordinated by Justin Mills. Gatewood had only two plays gain positive yardage through three first-quarter drives and their luck would not get any better as the night wore on. Flags thrown on John Milledge were really the only way the host team could get any sort of drive going.
Speaking of penalty flags, the second quarter was full of them for both teams. For the Trojans, that’s something that spilled over from last week’s second half versus Pinewood. The dirty laundry did not hurt John Milledge on the scoreboard Friday but killed a lot of the momentum gained in the first quarter.
“It was a rollercoaster ride,” Wall said of the first half. “We started as good as we could start and came out of the gate strong. But whether it’s offense, defense or special teams, we’ve got to find a way to clean up the penalties. Those will cost us down the road if it keeps happening.”
John Milledge did indeed get off to a perfect start. Wall’s team accepted the opening kickoff and senior quarterback Grayson Hopkins put his team up quick, keeping the football on the second play from scrimmage and streaking down the left sideline 66 yards for the score. The Trojans went 3-for-3 on drives that ended in the first quarter. Senior running back KJ Jackson got the other two early touchdowns to add to his season total. Even the JMA defense got in on the scoring action in the second half. The Gators were backed up to their end zone and tried to quick-throw their way out. Senior free safety Patrick McDonel would not allow it though as he tackled the Gatewood receiver for a safety.
For the 3-1 Gators, the loss does little to stop them from reaching their goals this season. In fact, it may add some fuel to their fire moving forward.
Next week is state championship rematch week in the GISA. Gatewood will hit the road Friday to face Briarwood Academy, while the Trojans will be back on their home field to take on familiar foe Valwood (2-2). JMA took the 2019 GISA AAA title handily versus Valwood 62-19 behind a monster rushing effort by Foston. Wall knows the Valiants of south Georgia have revenge on their mind after that title game blowout.
“There’s no doubt, and we’ve felt how they feel. We’ve been on the other side of that coin. They’ve been chewing on that game for a year, so we know they’re going to be ready. And they haven’t played a game in a while, so they’ve also had a few weeks to work on us.”
The upcoming JMA-Valwood meeting will serve as John Milledge’s Senior Night.