The John Milledge Academy football team owned a couple of impressive streaks entering Friday’s region matchup with the Creekside Christian Academy Cougars.
One came to an end, but the more important feat remained intact.
The Trojans (2-0 region, 7-0 overall) had shut out their last four opponents before the Cougars (1-1 region, 5-3 overall) scored a second-quarter touchdown Friday. One touchdown was not nearly enough to end the defending GISA AAA state champs’ other streak, though. John Milledge won its 20th consecutive ballgame dating back to last season by defeating the Cougars from McDonough handily, 50-7.
“We’ll take it,” JMA head coach JT Wall said postgame. “It’s all because of the hard work of these players and these coaches. Hopefully, we’ve got four more weeks.”
Four more weeks would carry the Trojans to yet another state championship game appearance, the program’s fourth in the last five seasons. They have destroyed every team in their path thus far, winning by an average margin of more than 41 points per game. Owning a roster of more than 60 guys when fully healthy has played a big role in that dominance according to the 10th-year head coach.
“Depth has been a friend of ours lately,” Wall said. “It really becomes a factor, more or less, during practice, having these guys be able to get good looks versus some good guys on the scout team.”
That scout team helps set the starters up for success on Friday nights, even when opponents like Creekside take a different route from their normal gameplan. Instead of starting dual-threat talent Brandon McNeil at quarterback, the Cougars put their backup behind center early to try and get their best player the ball away from the Trojans’ ferocious front seven.
The strategy fell well short of its goal. McNeil would eventually work in at quarterback, but no matter who was taking the snaps Creekside could not find a path through the JMA defense. Coach Wall’s defense and special teams alone actually outscored the Cougars on the night, starting on the visitors’ very first offensive drive. Trojan senior Patrick McDonel snatched his first of two interceptions on the game and housed it for a 55-yard score. McDonel would pick off a second pass Friday, now putting him in the team lead with four on the year.
Later in the first, Taylor Dixon got in on the non-offensive touchdown fun with a 50-yard punt return that started with him evading at least three Creekside tacklers and ended with him saluting in the end zone.
Defensive lineman Jayson Wright was also having a big night as he accumulated multiple sacks and tackles for loss early to keep the Cougars from answering in any way. Marcus Prestwood and Briggs Eady both also intercepted passes Friday, giving the Trojan defense four picks.
One of the more impressive individual plays belonged to kicker/punter Tommy Collier. The snap on a late first quarter punt was well above his head, forcing him to scramble and try to get it away quickly. The play ended in one of the most impressive negative 6-yard punts fans will ever see. Collier was also perfect on field goals and extra points on the night.
Offensively, it took a little while for John Milledge to get rolling. After a couple of early punts and settling for a field goal, the Trojans got their first offensive touchdown with eight minutes to go in the first half when McDonel scored on an option keeper at quarterback. Grayson Hopkins, who took most of the snaps, had three touchdowns on the night, two through the air and one on the ground. Both the scoring throws went to senior tight end Lane Stanley who had a third reception on a Trojan trick play.
All of that added up to John Milledge’s seventh win this season, setting up next week’s regular season finale against Westfield as the Region 4-AAA championship. The Westfield Hornets won 48-24 over Bethlehem Christian Friday and stand at 6-1-1 on the season. One of those victories came as a 35-14 win over Creekside last week.
“It’s huge,” Wall said talking about next week. “Any time you get to play on your home field for a region championship is a big deal. It also comes with a chance to host in the playoffs, so we need to take care of business.”