11-11 JMA-Creekside football preview.JPG

John Milledge senior quarterback Grayson Hopkins (12) loads up to pass in the Trojans’ Oct. 9 win at Gatewood this season. Hopkins was named the team’s Player of the Week after completing 4-of-5 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns last week at Bethlehem Christian.

In terms of the number of games, it hasn’t been all that long since John Milledge football has played on its home field. 

When looking at a calendar, though, it’s been nearly a full month since the 6-0 Trojans have welcomed an opponent into Ted Smith Stadium. That drought ends Friday night when JMA hosts the Creekside Christian Academy Cougars (5-2). 

The Cougars of McDonough started 2020 on a five-game winning streak, including a season-opening home victory versus GMC Prep, but have dropped their last two. GHSA school Schley County handed them their first loss the day before Halloween and a much-improved Westfield squad gave them their second last week, 35-14. 

Creekside is a newcomer to John Milledge’s region this year after having competed against the Atlanta schools in recent years. The Cougars haven’t really been known for their football acumen since coming joining the GISA a couple of years ago, but a few transfers can make a lot of difference in the private school league. That’s mainly how CCA has made the jump from a one-win team last season to one that has already locked up a winning record in this shortened 2020 schedule. 

A cannon-armed 6-4 quarterback has played a big part in that turnaround. 

“Everything runs through Brandon McNeil, their big junior quarterback,” JMA head coach JT Wall said. “He’s a matchup problem all by himself. Any time you can get the ball out of his hands you need to. He can make the play that’s not supposed to happen, happen.”

While it all starts with McNeil in the Cougar offense, he’s not a one-man show. He and the talented skill players have a lot of size up front as protection.

“They will be the biggest line we’ve seen all year,” said Wall. “They average around 285 up front and they’ve got speed everywhere. They don’t have big numbers, but you can only play with 11 at a time so the guys they put out there are pretty special.”

But let’s not forget that the Creekside offense has a very difficult task set before it as well. The Trojan defense has gone four straight games now without surrendering any points and is somehow outperforming last year’s unit that allowed only 5.4 points per game. Opposing offenses are currently only getting a little more than a field goal per game as JMA has surrendered just 20 points cumulatively in six games. 

Football coaches can always find areas where their teams can improve, though.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff to clean up,” Wall said. “We had way too many penalties last week, especially on the first drive of the football game. All in all, I feel good about where we’re at. We’ve got to get into a rhythm now because we’ve hopefully got a five-game stretch left to play this season.”

While this week’s matchup with Creekside is a region game, remember that region standings no longer determine playoff seeding in the GISA. Those seeds are now based on MaxPreps power rankings, which John Milledge currently sits atop with a dethroning unlikely to occur. The top eight teams gain entry to the postseason, and Creekside is currently in that eighth position with Valwood outside looking in. A win for the Cougars over the top-ranked Trojans this week would likely secure Creekside a postseason berth, so they certainly have a lot to play for.

Kickoff between JMA and Creekside is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at John Milledge. This game will serve as the Trojans’ 2020 Homecoming game. 

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