By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Sometimes witnessing history can be unbelievable for those directly involved.
Millington Trojans Head Coach Chris Michael was breathing a sigh of relief with his family in the north end zone of Mooney Bosewell Field enjoying his team's 41-34 win over the FACS Crusaders in an instant classic.
Throughout the night, one storyline of the game was FACS senior quarterback trying to out-duel Millington's 12th grade signal caller Tommy Clifton. Michael knew his veteran QB stepped up to the challenge all night but not to a school-record pace.
“Did he score 6 touchdowns?” Michael asked after receiving the news of Clifton's performance. “I didn't even realize that. I knew he was in the end zone a lot. I knew he made some incredible runs.”
Clifton rushed for 299 yards and reached the end zone 6 times joining Trojan legends Ahmaad Galloway and Miguel Barnes. FACS' Cole Putnam tried to match Clifton step for step Friday night running for 245 yards and 4 scores.
“Rightfully so, they have a senior quarterback,” Michael continued. “And we've got a senior quarterback. Those two guys, a much as I would have loved to completely shut him down, it's just hard to do.
“I'm sure it was nice from the fans' prospective to see high school football with two great quarterbacks going at each other,” he added. “That was a heck of a battle with the performances both kids put up. Tommy just kept matching them and the offense kept matching them.”
Entering the game between against the West 10 Media's Power 10 No. 10 Crusaders, the No. 6 Trojans figured they could be in a shootout.
Millington (5-1) wanted to establish a ground attack with Clifton and Damarion Dowdy. The Trojans ate more than 7 minutes off the clock on the opening drive. Clifton capped off the Millington effort with a 22-yard TD run to make the score 7-0.
“We felt like we could have some success offensively watching them on film,” Michael noted. “We thought there were some good match ups. We thought we had a chance at being controlling at the line of scrimmage. And we just needed to get the offense rolling. We needed to be consistent.”
The Crusaders (3-3) came prepared offensively answering the Millington score. Putnam connected with receiver Larry Giles III to set up the touchdown. On the next play Putnam kept the pigskin to reach the end zone from 14 yards out.
FACS broke the 7-7 deadlock in the second quarter when Putnam broke loose for a 83 yard touchdown run to make the tally 13-7.
Moments later Clifton had the answer for the Trojans reaching the house with a 9-yard TD run. The score was 13-13 at the break on Millington's Homecoming Night.
As newly crowned Queen Sky Clark was still taking photos with her court near the South end zone, Clifton was racing his way toward the hoopla. The senior exploded for a 76-yard TD to regain the lead for Millington at 20-13 early in the third quarter.
About 2 minutes later Putnam tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to even up the contest at 20-20. Clifton and his offensive line would break the tie in less than 2 minutes. Clifton set up his 6-yard touchdown run with a 30-yard scamper.
Millington's 27-20 advantage was trimmed to 27-26 at the 3:31 mark of the third quarter when Putnam cut through the Trojan defense for a 43-yard run to the end zone.
The Trojans would be nursing a 34-26 lead entering the fourth quarter courtesy of a Clifton 28-yard touchdown run.
FACS tied the game once again when Putnam scored on a 21-yard TD run. He added the two-point conversion and the scoreboard read 34-34.
The Crusaders deadlocked the game with 8:29 remaining. Millington would take the lead for good at the 6:17 mark of the period. For the final and sixth time on the night, Clifton reached the end zone. His 20-yard touchdown run proved to be the winning score.
“We were able to move the chains and move the chains,” Michael said. “We wore them down on the front. They were seven, eight and nine in the box. And we were still moving them off the ball. We slipped a lot of blocks tonight. We were just able to wear them down.”
The Crusaders have a week to recover before heading back into action Oct. 11 against Northpoint Christian. Meanwhile the Trojans are back in action and step into the Region 8-4A play for the first time at Craigmont.
“I think we can defend as Region champions if we can get all three of our phases working,” Michael said. “It's going to be tough to beat Craigmont and Fayette-Ware. And we have to go to Craigmont's place. I don't know what's Bolton is going to be like. They're a new team in our league. Bolton vs. Millington is always a rivalry. Those kids are going to come ready to play.
“But I think we can get our Region if all three phases of our team are good,” he continued. “But every coach is going to believe that about his kids. If they get their defense clicking, offense clicking and things are going well in the special teams they're going to have a chance to win their games.”
Playing in a four-team league, the Trojans are guaranteed to reach the playoffs. Michael wants his players to be focused on improving toward November and securing a home playoff game.
“We want to get a one-seed so we can be right back here on the turf of Mooney Bosewell Week One of the playoffs,” he concluded. “Whoever we draw, we want to advance this year. That's our goal, win the league, defense and we want to get back on this grass and have a chance to advance.”