By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Munford Cougars have been waiting nine years to beat the Millington Trojans in an M&M Bowl. And thanks to serve weather Friday night, the Cougars would have to postpone any chance at victory an extra day. With his team trailing 28-27 with 25 second left Saturday night in the Munford Football Stadium, Munford Head Coach Matt Saunders wasn’t going to wait an overtime period to see if his team could pull out the long-awaited victory. When Cougar senior quarterback No. 10 Hunter Harden connected with Derek Pierce in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversation, the Cougars finally were the victorious team in the annual rivalry game. “I had 100 percent faith,,” Saunders said with tears in his eyes. “We practice that every single day, we have an overtime period and a two-point conversation period. I trusted them 100 percent, that’s why we ran it. “If you would have told me coming into this game we need three yards to beat Millington on one play?” he continued. “Especially after we lost last week in overtime to Hardin County, I’m going to go for it every single time.” The play resulted in a 29-28 Munford win and the end of the Millington nine-year winning streak in the M&M Bowl. It took two days and two-weather delays to get to the traumatic conclusion. The M&M Bowl 2012 kicked off as scheduled on Friday night with severe weather in the area. Before the first delay, the Cougars took an early lead when Harden found wide out Antonio Moore for a touchdown. Munford stayed ahead 7-0 when a lightning bolt was spotted off in the distance. The officials called a stop to play with a 30-minute mandatory wait. When play resumed, the Cougars stayed on the attack with defense. The Trojans were in scoring territory late in the first quarter but was denied. Millington starting quarterback Nick Hunt was injured forcing him to leave the game. With backup signal caller Allen Moore in the game, the Trojans found themselves in a second down with 27 yards to go on the 6-yard line when the sky turned white. The officials called the game to a stop again. Munford officials decided to suspend play until the following day at 7 p.m. picking up from that game situation. The first play on Saturday was a Moore toss to senior running back Antonio Webber. The Trojan speedster blasted through the Munford defense for a 94-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. Munford regrouped and regained the lead to be ahead 21-7 at halftime. The Cougars made the score 14-7 when their senior running back D’Marious Exum danced through the Millington defenders for a 27-yard run. Harden set up that scoring run with a pass to Pierce over the middle. Harden’s arm help drive the Cougars down the field late in the second quarter setting up his own 3-yard quarterback sneak. Trailing 21-7, Webber put the Trojans on his back with two touchdown runs in the second half. Webber’s first TD run came with 4 minutes and 23 second left in the third quarter. He took a handoff and ran toward the Millington sideline. Webber then reversed his direction scoring the touchdown from 47-yard out by the pylon near the Munford sideline. In the fourth quarter, the Trojans got a big break when the Cougars muffed a punt on the 19-yard line. On the next play, Webber swept toward the sideline and leaped over the goal line to make the tally 21-21. “When Nick Hunt got hurt and they couldn’t throw as much, they knew they had to rely on him,” Saunders noted. “After the game, I came up to him and said, ‘I know you don’t know me, but I love the way you play the game of football. You play it the way it should be played.’ “He carried his team on his back,” he added. “That team has faced so much adversity. I can only image he told those coaches, ‘Give me the ball.'” Then Millington took the lead at 28-21 when LaKeron Garcia caught an 86-yard touchdown pass from Moore with 2 minutes and 35 seconds remaining in the game. But the Cougars had enough time to mount a drive to win the game and end the Trojans’ winning streak in the series. The play that kept the Cougar drive alive came on fourth down and 6. Turner Weston caught a pass to keep the drive alive. Moments later Pierce snatched down a Harden bullet for a touchdown making the score 28-27 in favor of the Trojans. Without hesitation, the Cougars sent the offense back out to the field with 23 seconds remaining on the clock. “That drive, we knew we had to pass the ball,” Harden recalled. “We practice it every week, two-minute O. I had faith in my coaches and I had faith in my offense. I knew we could drive it. I knew this would be the game of our careers. We haven’t beat them since 2002. “Derek came up big twice,” he added. “On the two-point conversation on the back side of the end zone.” When Pierce came down with the ball, the Munford sideline erupted with joy. After nine M&M Bowls and an extra day, Munford was moments away from beating Millington. “It was worth the wait,” Pierce said. “This win for was for the whole community. It was for everybody who supported us and all those who played the past 10 years.” The 29-28 win fulfilled a promise Saunders made to his current seniors his first night on the Munford campus. “When these kids were freshmen, I went to the freshmen game when they were playing Millington,” he recalled. “I told them at halftime, ‘By the time you guys are seniors, you’re going to beat Millington.’ “They deserve it,” Saunders concluded. “Our kids deserve those. We’re so close to being a really good team. I’ve been praying all week that something special would happen for us tonight. I got faith in No. 10. He is the reason I’m here at Munford.”