Trojans Seek Strong Finish En Route to Playoffs

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Friday, October 12, 2018, 9:36 am
Mark Meyer

Above: Junior standout Jamar Mills.

Seven weeks into the season and East Lansing junior linebacker/running back Jamar Mills knew it was time to raise his game to a higher level.

Mills seized that opportunity in the murky mist of last week’s 20-12 victory over Everett when he slipped out of the backfield to catch a screen pass from quarterback Joe Benbraham, and then proceeded to pinball his way into the end zone from 42 yards away to score the Trojans’ first touchdown late in the first quarter.

The six-point play was Mills’ third touchdown of the season for the 6-1 Trojans, who enter tonight’s game against Waverly (7 p.m. at Lynn C. Adams Stadium) in search of stability and leadership with the postseason playoffs quickly approaching.

“I feel like we’re in fine shape at this point in the season, but we definitely need to come together as a team if we’re going to have some more success,” said Mills, who leads the Trojan defense with 64 tackles through seven games. “I feel like (junior defensive back) Kye Bristow is one of those players who will step up for us. We need everyone on their game this week.”

Offensively, Mills will be part of Coach Bill Feraco’s “backfield by committee” along with senior Kaleb Elam and junior T’Senre Gray. Elam carried the bulk of the rushing duties against Everett, racking up 138 yards on 16 carries before being sidelined with a minor knee injury in the second half.

Feraco expects Elam to be at full strength this evening.

“We haven’t had our full contingent of players (for the past several games), but at this stage of the season everybody is in the same boat,” Feraco said. “Once again, the people who are inserted need to play well.”

Feraco hopes to rest his senior standout Kobe Hayward (586 yards rushing, 6.2 yards per carry average) at least one more week. Hayward was injured (upper chest and neck area) in the victory over Portage Northern (week five) and has not been at full strength since.

Senior running back James Hosey, who filled in admirably for Hayward both offensively and defensively against Northern, suffered a season-ending injury (broken clavicle) the following week against DeWitt. Senior defensive back Darvelle Grubbs is expected to return against Waverly after having missed the Everett game due to concussion protocol.

Feraco prefers to not dwell on the injuries but instead to concentrate on the task at hand.

“Right now our focus is Waverly,” he said. “We need to build positive momentum, we need to play well Friday. That’s our only concern. We just have to play well so there’s this thing called ‘positive mo’ that we can build on.”

Within that surge, Feraco would like to see his offense control the ball longer – perhaps running as many as 70 plays during the game. Through the first seven games, East Lansing has average 45 offensive plays per game.

“Candidly, we thought we had a chance to be somewhat formidable this season,” Feraco said. “How formidable? We did not know. Because we knew at certain positions we were going to be young. It depended on how quickly we would arrive at that maturity."

“We’re still a work in progress. We’re elated to be where we are. We just have to finish now.”


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