jma football preview

John Milledge junior Landen Burney puts up the signal for a safety after the Trojan defense earned one last Friday night versus Gatewood. 

Something’s going to have to give when John Milledge Academy (1-0) and Brentwood (2-0) meet Friday night.

The Trojans nor the War Eagles have given up a single point in their combined total of three games played this season. Barring a scoreless tie, someone’s points per game allowed average is going up in Sandersville this week.

John Milledge Academy head coach J.T. Wall’s squad is riding the high of a 37-0 shutout over rival Gatewood. While his defense flew around the field and made every play possible, the offensive perfectionist says there are some kinks to be worked out for when his team has the football.

“We’ve got to get a lot better up front offensively,” Wall said evaluating his team’s performance having watched film. “Defensively I was proud of the way we flew around to the football. I thought (Hunter) Noles had a great game punting. He was able to flip the field a couple of times, and in a game like that, you’re playing field position every possession. All-in-all I thought we played well, but not really up to the standard that we’re trying to play here week in and week out.” 

Wall’s team scored 14 points in the first half off a couple of forced Gatewood miscues. A second-half interception thrown by JMA served as really the only highlight for the team from Eatonton. Even that turned into a negative though as the swarming Trojan defense forced a safety soon after. The John Milledge defensive front led the way all night long, both down linemen and the outside linebackers. They all worked together to stifle a triple-option offense that helped carry the Gators to last year’s Class AA state title. 

“They played ball,” Wall said of his defensive front. “There were some licks being passed. It’s hard to call a 37-0 game a defensive ballgame, but that’s exactly what it was. Gatewood played well defensively too, but we feel like our guys played a little better.”

This week, Wall’s Trojans face a very different offensive threat in Brentwood’s wing T attack. The War Eagles are one of the few GISA teams who have played two games already this season. Their wins came as a 50-0 decision over Notre Dame Academy on Aug. 23 and last week’s 31-0 trouncing of AAA opponent Trinity Christian. Wall said what has been a young Brentwood team in recent years has grown up.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Wall said. “They’re running some of the same stuff we’ve seen offensively, but really they’re not. They’ve got multiple guys who can hurt you, and they’ve scored 81 points in the last two ballgames. They scrimmaged Westfield earlier on and if you add those two games and their scrimmage together their defense has not allowed a point this year so we’ve got our work cut out for us on the offensive side of the ball.”

If they aren’t already, John Milledge’s defensive players are going to get real accustomed to hearing the words jet sweep, fullback trap, and waggle on the practice field this week. Those terms are almost always used in play calls for wing T offenses. A lot of the plays can look the same, but the ball can end up in just about anyone's’ hands following every snap. 

“Against that wing T you’ve got to play fast, but you’ve got to play slow too,” Wall said. “You’ve got to read your keys because if you fly upfield they’re going to run underneath you. Our guys have got to be in the right spots and play sound, disciplined football.”

Wall’s players showed just how disciplined they were last week against Gatewood’s option. While the principle still applies, the wing T does pose a different type of threat, especially when taking into account the fact that Brentwood has not relied heavily on one guy through the early weeks of 2019.

Last year’s meeting between the Trojans and War Eagles ended 41-7 in JMA’s favor. Brentwood went on to finish the regular season at 8-3 before losing out in the Class AA state quarterfinals to Memorial Day. John Milledge has taken seven of the last eight meetings against the Sandersville school, the lone exception coming in a 13-12 decision in 2013.

The Trojans and War Eagles are scheduled to kick off 7:30 p.m. Friday at Brentwood.

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