jma-westfield football preview

JMA kicker Tommy Collier (27) watches one of his two field goals sail through the uprights Friday in the Trojans’ 50-7 region win over Creekside Christian.

A lot will be on the line this week when John Milledge Academy welcomes Westfield to town.

The Trojans (2-0 region, 7-0 overall) are trying for their third consecutive region championship as well as a third straight perfect regular season. Opposing them are the 6-1-1 Hornets (2-0 region) who have enjoyed a football resurgence this year. After experiencing a great deal of success from 2008 through 2015, the Perry private school saw its program take a big dip with four losing seasons. Westfield seems to be heading back to form now, though beating the stalwart Trojans on their home field this week would still very much be considered an upset. The Hornets stand fourth in the GISA AAA power rankings behind JMA, Bulloch Academy and Pinewood respectively. 

“They’re in a more offensive-friendly scheme,” Trojan head coach JT Wall said of what has Westfield looking more like Westfield again. “They’re back running the wing T, and have 38 rushing touchdowns on the year already while averaging 420 rushing yards a game. That all equals out to about 34 points per game. Everything is running through their quarterback, Gavin Vining. He’s already rushed for 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s a run-first quarterback, and if he gets into the open field, he’s gone.”

Just a sophomore, Vining leads the Hornets in rushing by more than 300 yards. Second on the team is junior Porter Faulk at 830 yards and 12 touchdowns. This will be the second true wing T the Trojans have faced this year, the first having come in the season opener against AA Brentwood. 

Westfield’s two non-wins came against AA schools Briarwood and Gatewood. The tie was a 20-20 result versus Briarwood before the team suffered its only loss to Gatewood 24-19 on the Gators’ homecoming. 

“They (Westfield) drove the ball on Gatewood the whole game, but had multiple hiccups inside the 10,” said Wall. “Westfield had multiple chances to win, but Gatewood did what it had to do to win the game, which was a big win for them.”

Defensively the Hornets are coordinated by former Northside-Warner Robins head football coach Kevin Kinsler who knows a thing or two about winning. He led the Eagles to four region championships and one state title in his 10-year tenure, and his current Hornet defense is giving up 18.5 points per game, which is a respectable number until you compare it to the work done by John Milledge’s defense.

The Trojans gave up their first touchdown in four games during last week’s 50-7 win over Creekside Christian. The defensive unit also scored on a pick-six and finished the night with four interceptions total. Their points-per-game allowed average took a slight hit after giving up that touchdown, but is still below four points per game. John Milledge is winning its games by an average score of 45-3 in 2020. 

Coach Wall gave his keys to victory this week when asked what it would take to beat Westfield and earn that coveted region championship. 

“We’ve got to read our keys, stay in our lanes and not get too anxious,” Wall said. “We’ve got to play with great energy on all three sides of the ball. A lot of energy in the stands will help with that and give us a true home-field advantage. At the end of the day we’ve got to know what we’re playing for, which is a region championship and chance to be a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.”

The Trojans already hold a sizable lead in the MaxPreps power ratings, which are being used this year to determine playoff seeding in the GISA. A loss Friday likely would not affect that top-seed status. If the rankings hold true and JMA remains first while Westfield stays fourth, these two teams could see one another again in the state semifinals. 

Kickoff between the Trojans and Hornets is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at John Milledge.

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