Things almost could not have been more perfect for the John Milledge Academy football team in 2018.
The Trojans played their way to an unblemished regular season record and GISA Region 4-AAA championship before advancing to the program’s second state finals berth in three seasons. That’s where the parade met some rain though as JMA was jumped in the title game by Frederica Academy, losing to the Knights in a lopsided 48-0 decision.
Head coach J.T. Wall and the Trojans are hoping that playing the same schedule in 2019 (with almost every game site swapped) will produce similar results with a different final outcome as the season sits now just three months away.
Outside of game locations, the only other change from last year’s schedule to upcoming one is starting date. In just three years’ time the Trojans will go from opening their season on Aug. 12 to kicking things off the final Friday of the month, Aug. 30, which is the same weekend the University of Georgia football team begins its year.
Opponent-wise, John Milledge will open 2019 the same way they’ve opened the last season, by taking on the rival Gatewood Gators of Eatonton. The Trojans dominated the 2018 matchup with the Gators, winning 45-7, but Gatewood went on to finish the drill nearly perfectly down in GISA’s Class AA, putting up a dominating performance in the 51-17 title win over Terrell Academy. The Gators return many key pieces from last season’s championship run while the Trojans have a lot of senior leadership to replace, so the 2019 opener to be played in Milledgeville ought to serve as a decent test for both teams.
JMA will hit the road over the following two weeks to take on Brentwood and Trinity Christian respectively, matchups that the Trojans took by 34 and 11 points in 2018. Next up are back-to-back home games against Pinewood and Westfield. John Milledge dominated Pinewood last year 35-6, but narrowly defeated Westfield, leaving Perry with a 14-10 victory thanks to some clutch play late.
The Trojans will take their bye week halfway through the 10-game regular season, and return hopefully refreshed for a road meeting against Bulloch Academy Oct. 11. That matchup served as John Milledge’s homecoming a season ago, a game the home team took 29-14. What follows is a very important stretch for the Trojans, starting with GICAA (Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association) opponent Community Christian. Coach Wall scheduled last year’s game against Community to fill a gap in the schedule left by Westminster of Augusta who did not field an 11-man football team last season. The Trojans will then step into region play to face Bethlehem Christian Academy (a 49-0 win for JMA last year) before taking the field for arguably their most interesting matchup of the season — a rematch of the 2018 GISA AAA state championship. The Frederica Knights will make the long trek to Milledgeville Friday, Nov. 1, returning the favor after the Trojans rode down to St. Simons last regular season. John Milledge took the regular-season matchup 14-13 in overtime. Coach Wall’s team will finish out the regular season against their only other region opponent besides Bethlehem as the Trojans are set to travel to Augusta Prep where they will look to secure another region championship.
The regular season will then give way to the state playoffs, set to begin Nov. 15. The later starting regular season means the postseason will also be pushed to a later finish. The state semifinals are set for Friday, Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving while the state championship is slated for Dec. 6, and it will once again be held at Mercer University’s Five Star Stadium in Macon. The John Milledge football team has produced mixed results at the neutral-site venue, having shut out Gatewood in the 2016 state championship before being shut out itself by Frederica last season. Before the Trojans can settle the score at the GISA football Mecca, they’ll have to put in a ton of hard work between now and when pads and helmets meet for the real thing.