After an unexpected two-week break in play, the John Milledge Academy football team (5-0) is ready to hit the field for competition again.
The Trojans’ scheduled Oct. 23 opponent, Community Christian, backed out of that contest, and JMA head coach JT Wall’s attempts to find a new opponent for that week came up empty. John Milledge had an off week already scheduled for Oct. 30, but now the guys are raring to go for this week’s matchup against the 2-5 Bethlehem Christian Academy Knights.
“I think the best word to describe the team right now is thankful — thankful that we’re going to get the opportunity to play Friday,” Wall said. “We’re approaching this thing like we should. It’s our first region ballgame, and we’ve got to control what we can control. It feels like we’ve been on the road all year, but hopefully, this is our last away game. We kind of control our own destiny from here on out.”
As Wall said, the game at Bethlehem marks the start of region play for his team, though that carries a different meaning from previous years. Region standing is no longer used to determine state playoff seeding. That is now derived through power rankings on MaxPreps where JMA currently sits comfortably at No. 1 over second-place Bulloch Academy. The top eight teams gain entry into the GISA AAA state playoffs, and Bethlehem is currently outside looking in at No. 12.
The Knights need a win to get themselves into the postseason picture, and an upset over the Trojans would be huge. Bethlehem is head coached by Bruce Lane, who served as JMA football’s head from 1995 through 1999 where he coached Wall through high school. Lane spent the 2019 season at Westfield in Perry where his team went 3-9 before moving to Bethlehem. Last year’s meeting between coach and former player ended 48-0 in Wall’s team’s favor.
“He’s going to formation you to death,” Wall said of his high school head coach. “He’ll try to take away your top two or three plays on offense and make you beat him with something else. I don’t know if you can go in with one gameplan and hope it’s going to work. If you don’t have a back-up plan you’re going to be in trouble.”
Wall added that Lane has employed the multiple offensive formations strategy at least as far back as his JMA coaching days.
“He’ll give you multiple looks to try and gain an advantage and have leverage on the defense,” the JMA head coach said. “We’re going to have to play sound defense and be in the right spot. We’ve had a few weeks, so hopefully, we’re not too rusty and are ready to play.”
Friday’s game between the Trojans and Knights will be played at 7:30 p.m. at Bethlehem Christian Academy.