The John Milledge Academy Trojans kicked off their 2019 season in style Friday night, defeating the Gatewood Gators 37-0.
The victory marks JMA’s 10th win over Gatewood in the two teams’ last 11 meetings and third shutout in that same timeframe.
It’s always a physical matchup when the neighboring rivals meet, and Friday was no different. In the end though, the Trojans just had more gas in the tank as they put up 23 points in the second half to Gatewood’s goose egg.
“The defense played great,” JMA head coach J.T. Wall said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to clean up offensively. When the defense is playing that well and giving us the ball that many times we’ve got to put a whole lot more points on the board. You gotta tip your hat to Coach (Tyler) VanDusen and his defensive staff at Gatewood because they did a good job of getting their guys in the right place and playing some physical football. But our guys were really physical too. I’m just real proud of these guys and the way they played. It feels great to start the year by winning 37-0 against the defending state champs.”
Wall’s defense shined all through the shutout, but really set the tone early. On Gatewood’s second possession JMA senior outside linebacker Justin Aldridge scooped up a fumble to give the ball over to his offense who was set up beautifully at Gatewood’s 17-yard line. In his first varsity start at quarterback, junior Patrick McDonel rolled right and dropped a dime into the back corner to leaping classmate K.J. Jackson. His feet came down inbounds by inches for the score Hunter Noles booted the extra point through to punctuate the Trojans’ first points of 2019.
The JMA defense continued to eat as Aldridge, Kevin Kitchens, Carson Dyer, and Je’Mazin Roberts all had big plays throughout the first half. A Roberts tackle for loss forced Gatewood to line up for its third of what would be eight punts on the night. The Trojans forced another Gator miscue as the punt was blocked, giving the home team great field position once again. John Milledge 2018 All-State running back Amaad Foston punched in his first of what will likely be many touchdowns this season to put his team up 14-0 with 4:28 left before the half.
Foston was hemmed up much of the first half thanks in large part to the play of Gatewood linebacker James Williamson. The senior Gator went everywhere Foston did and held him to minimal yardage through two quarters. Coach Wall’s horse was not dissuaded though as he broke off a couple of 40-plus yarders in the second half that helped him finish with 165 yards on 21 carries along with three touchdowns. Foston is one of the few Trojan starters that doesn’t play both sides of the football.
“That’s why you play Amaad Foston one way,” said Wall.
If the Gatewood sideline wasn’t already demoralized down 21-0 in the fourth, a safety by the Trojan defense may have done the trick. Starting on his own 5, Gator QB Luke Haley was tracked down by Aldridge in Gatewood’s end zone to give JMA two points early in the game’s final period. The senior captain Aldridge was proud of the effort put forward by his fellow defensive mates in stopping what can be a tricky triple-option offense.
“Everybody did their jobs,” he said. “Once we had the key to stopping them we were just able to keep it going and didn’t let up.”
A running clock in the fourth only further pumped up the John Milledge defense. It’s something Aldridge is unlikely to forget as it took place in his final time lining up against the team from Eatonton.
“It (the running clock) means a lot, but after tonight we’ve got to look ahead and start preparing for next week,” he added.
Coach Wall said some changes were made in the locker room at halftime to boost the offense, but in the end he attributed the 23-point second half to something he and his fellow staffers really pride themselves in.
“We made a few adjustments at the half, but it really all comes back to conditioning,” Wall said. “People can say what they want to say, but they don’t do what we do.”
The Trojans are scheduled to hit the road next week and take the short trip to Sandersville to face Brentwood. The 1-1 Gators will play their third straight game away from The Swamp as they are set to travel to Trinity Christian in Dublin.