The top-ranked John Milledge Trojans (11-0) doled out another Friday night beatdown this week as they punched their ticket to the GISA AAA state semifinals with a 42-6 win over ninth-seeded Bulloch Academy (5-7).
The victory marks JMA football’s 35th in a row dating back to the start of the 2019 campaign, and this is now the ninth time in the last 10 seasons the program has been one of the final four teams standing.
Head coach JT Wall got a huge night out of Bud Veal. Primarily an outside linebacker used sporadically on offense, Veal received a few more touches than he’s used to and made the most of them. He rushed for 72 yards on four carries, three of which went for touchdowns. The third quarter turned out to be the Bud Veal Show as he scored two of those three rushing TDs and returned a Bulloch fumble for six all in the post-halftime period, giving him a four-touchdown performance.
“Bud had a good night offensively and defensively,” Wall said. “He had to step up and be a two-way player this week with some guys down. He did a great job, and he’s got to continue to do that for us to be successful in the playoffs.”
Veal played as part of a defense that allowed the visiting Gators of Statesboro just 10 total yards in the first half. Bulloch punted the football away nine times on the night, five of which came in those first two quarters where the offense never got anything going. The Gators’ best weapon was Florida State University commit Rodney Hill who was in his third game back from injury. He was kept in check other than one spectacular one-handed grab that set Bulloch up for its only touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter.
JMA senior outside linebacker Dawson Smith was living in the Gator backfield all night long, and anyone who made it past the line of scrimmage had the displeasure of dealing with thumper Andrew Mullis. Both players had their names called often by John Milledge public address announcer Greg Stephens.
Despite all those highlights, the Trojan home crowd sat silent much of the night unless otherwise prompted by Stephens through the PA speakers. Maybe it was the cold, or maybe it was the fact that they were watching yet another blowout, but they were too quiet for Coach Wall’s liking.
“With the atmosphere tonight — the lack of crowd noise that we had from our fans — I’m super proud of the way the guys played,” the JMA head coach said. “I really want to challenge our fans to please cheer. It was quiet out here. I know that we’ve been spoiled, but our guys need some energy. We get great crowds, but we have to know they’re here.”
The Trojan fans will have the opportunity to respond to Wall’s challenge next week when JMA hosts Tiftarea Academy (6-5). The Panthers advanced via forfeit after Frederica Academy had to cancel due to COVID. That means they will have had two weeks off when they come rolling into Milledgeville Friday night.
Tiftarea closed out the regular season with wins over Southland (27-13) and Valwood (32-14), and the Panthers hold the distinction of being the only AAA team left standing that the Trojans have not defeated yet this season. Westfield and Pinewood are on the other side of the bracket after winning their quarterfinal matchups Friday. The Pinewood-Westfield winner will move on to face either Tiftarea or heavily-favored John Milledge in the 2021 GISA AAA state championship game to be played at Mercer University Friday, Dec. 3.