By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 10th M&M Bowl I had the pleasure of covering was the best ever. The drama surpassed the 2006 epic battle in which the Millington Trojans defeated the Munford Cougars 28-20. The 2012 edition took place over two days, was literally filled with electricity, featured comebacks, big hits and a surprised ending. Munford winning 29-28 and ending Millington nine-game winning streak in the series might have shocked most. But for Cougars Head Coach Matt Saunders, the outcome to the 2012 M&M Bowl was predicted four years ago. When he took over the reigns of the Munford Football program, he promised the freshmen that night they would beat the Trojans before they graduate. And when seniors Hunter Harden and Derek Pierce contacted on a fourth quarter touchdown and two-point conversation, Saunders premonition came true. When Pierce pulled the conversation in the back of the end zone, everybody wearing maroon and black in the Munford Football Stadium jumped for joy. Then their excitement transformed into tear of rejoicing. The look on Cougar senior Turner Weston face said it all. When the final second ticked off the clock Saturday night, he ran toward the middle of the field. Then Weston slowed up and took off his helmet to look up to the heavens. Tears flowed from his eyes looking at the sky that was lit up with lightning just the night before. The severe weather in the area delayed Weston and the Cougars’ date with destiny. And for a moment it seemed Millington’s Antonio Webber would postpone that to next year. Webber carried the Trojans with his 285-yard effort. The first play of Saturday night was a Webber 94-yard run. All night the senior running back took handoffs from his fellow senior Allen Moore creating magic. Webber would elude Cougar defenders and burst for big gains. Webber added two more touchdowns to his performance. If the Trojans had finished victorious, his effort would have joined the likes of other great Millington running backs in the series. The name Webber would have been mention with Travis Simpson, Roland Genesy, Miguel Barnes and Eric Knowlton. But the drive led by Hunter Harden erased that thought. After Millington’s LaKeron Garcia caught an 86-yard TD pass from Allen Moore, it was Hunter’s time to validate the trust his head coach placed him. Calmly, the senior signal caller directed his team down the field using weapons like Antonio Moore and D’Marious Exum. The offensive line of Munford, dominant both nights, did their job to protect Harden from the ultra quick Millington defensive line. After picking up fourth down deep in Millington territory, you could sense the Millington faithful realizing the nine-year run could be over in minutes. As “Let’s go Munford” echoed throughout the stadium and the Trojan fans were trying to out shout the Munford faithful, Harden threw a strike to Pierce to make the score 28-27. Anyone who has watched Saunders coach the last few years knew he was going for two. And the offense ran out the three-yard line with confidence. Executing a play they run in practice for this situation, Pierce caught the ball and released the Trojan demon. Former Cougar players ran on the field to celebrate with the 2012 team. This victory was for all of Munford. The Cougar win also popped some life back into the M&M Bowl. The last time I saw the Trojans celebrate an M&M Bowl victory with joy and a great appreciation was in 2006. Maybe this game has been taken for granted over the year by the black and gold nation. Winning can have that effect. Losing made Saturday night’s win pure heaven for the Cougar Nation. The second the game ended, you would have thought Munford won the State title on the final play of the game. Harden said, ‘This is the most important win of my career.” The win might be the most important in M&M Bowl history. Because now it is more of a rivalry. And now the Trojans know how a lost feels in this series. That is the recipe for a great M&M Bowl in 2013.