A bye week usually comes as a blessing for a football team, and while the easily 5-0 John Milledge Academy football team may not look like they needed an open date, the physically ailing Trojans most certainly did.
“It was good, but we still need about two or three more bye weeks to get everybody healthy,” JMA head coach J.T. Wall said of the off week. “Our guys had a chance to take a deep breath and put that ‘first season’ behind them and look forward to this next one. We’ve had multiple guys nursing injuries who were able to heal up last week. We’re a far cry from 100 percent healthy, but we’re healthier now than we were.”
The injuries are an obstacle the Trojans have dodged in recent years, and if they don’t return to a normal level they could keep the 2019 team from realizing its full potential. Among the players down is junior starting quarterback/free safety Patrick McDonel whose collarbone was broken Sept. 27 against Westfield. While this is McDonel’s first year starting at quarterback, it’s his second at free safety where he was named All-Region a season ago. He’s one of the few John Milledge quarterbacks to contribute on both sides of the football under Wall. A broken collarbone usually carries with it a six- to eight-week waiting period to allow healing. Six weeks would bring McDonel back to begin the playoffs while eight weeks would have him out until the state semifinals.
“We’ve been looking at multiple people,” Wall said of evaluating a replacement at quarterback. “Right now it’s going to be senior Justin Aldridge with everything he brings to the table. He knows the offense from pretty much every position because he’s played every one of them.”
Aldridge finished out the Westfield game when McDonel went down right up until the junior varsity players were subbed in once the game got out of hand. There were some bumps along the way after Aldridge took over, but a good run game is an inexperienced quarterback’s best friend and the Trojans have that in All-State running back Amaad Foston. Wall did say he would not be surprised to see multiple players take snaps in this week’s road game against the 4-1 Bulloch Academy Gators.
“We’ve got a tough task this week,” Wall said. “We think this is the toughest team we’ve played yet. They’re really one of the top teams in our league with what they’re doing offensively and defensively, and they’ve got a very good kicking game that can win them some ballgames.”
John Milledge and Bulloch faced off against one another twice in 2018, once in the regular season and again in the second round of the state playoffs. The Trojans won those two meetings 29-14 and 49-14, respectively, both on their home field. This time around the teams will face off on the Gators’ home turf in Statesboro. Bulloch’s game results this season read quite similarly to John Milledge’s. The Gators have blown out opponents in their four wins by an average of 47 points, but their loss is the one that bears the most attention. Bulloch lost its season opener 30-28 against Pinewood, a team the Trojans dismantled 38-6 on Sept. 20. Worth noting though is the fact that John Milledge was on its home field that night and still had its starting quarterback. Put all of that together, fans of both teams may be in for a good ballgame this week.
Kickoff between John Milledge and Bulloch is set for 7:30 p.m. in Statesboro.