By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When most people hear the term “Cougar Town” maybe the hit sitcom on TBS pops to mind.
For me, the phrase Cougar Town means Munford, Tenn. I was introduced to this land of maroon, black and white back in 2003 with greeters like Steve McCullough, Courtney Fee, Darry Marshall and Coach Mike Anderson.
All the coaches and administrators at Munford High School informed me Munford student/athletes are full of character, will give their all in their sport and will be your friends at the end of the day. And from Ashley “Beefy” Lewis to Veronica “MeMe” Fitz, I can honestly say I have made many friends from Munford over the past 10 years.
While developing these friendships I have had the honor and privilege of covering State champion athletes like Crystal Williams, multiple Division-I signees like Tommy Walker and teams for the ages.
The first big-time team I followed at Munford was the 2004 Cougar Baseball team led by Cody Overbeck.
It was easy to see Overbeck’s potential before he reached the Big Leagues or even put on an Ole Miss uniform. Along with teammates like Jeremy Williams and Lance Willis, Overbeck helped Tommy Densford build a solid program at Munford.
Although baseball was the face of Cougar Athletics for a while, the heart of the school is the football program. Accompanied by the 2010 National Champion Munford Band, Cougar Football has proved many memorials sounds and sights on Friday nights.
In my decade of covering the M&M Bowl, the Millington Trojans were 9-0 coming into the 2012 contest. But the Cougars finally ended that drought when quarterback Hunter Harden hit receiver Derek Pierce for a touchdown and then two-point conversion.
That was one of the high
lights of the past 10 years for Munford Football. But the top for me has to be the 2006 Region 7-4A championship led by Memphis Tiger signee Tommy Walker.
Cougars signing to Division I was a familiar trend over the years. On the hardwood, Jasmine Brown and Whitney Malone pulled off the track in back-to-back years. Brown was the go-to player for the Lady Cougars leading the team to the 2006 District 13-3A title. She inked a letter of intent to Memphis.
With great players like Brown, Dominga Smith and Keisha Jones graduated, Malone became the star for Mike Anderson’s team.
Along with teammates Lindsey Byram and Brittney Hobock, Malone kept Munford atop the standings winning the regular-season district title. Malone went on to play for UT-Martin.
It wasn’t too long after Malone’s departure, the ultra-successful Lady Cougar Softball program had its first D-I signee in Cali Overbeck to Ole Miss. She followed in her big brother’s footsteps but just missed out on reaching State.
Overbeck could do it all. She tossed a no-hitter while crushing homers to help her team win. And when she was at shortstop, like Coach Bobby said, “She’s automatic!”
But talent like Overbeck, Carly McLennan, Jennifer Pugh and Maegan Wilson couldn’t get over the hump for Head Coach Glenn Goulder. For years, Goulder sent great players on the field. Wilson pumped strikes passed the opposition. McLennan and Pugh had pop in their bats.
Despite all the awards, Sub-State was still a thorn in the side of Goulder. Then came a 2011 trip to Collierville. With a mixture of leadership from players like Paige Barnes and Amanda Levin, a corps. of sophomore took the field and beat the Lady Dragons. That was the start of three straight State appearances.
The current Lady Cougar Softball teams were led by Tara Comer, Alex Stanford, Alex Turner, Jessyca Baker, Maggie Johnson and Sami Jo Schulz. Those players were standing on the shoulders of the Wilsons, Pughs, McLennans and Overbecks.
And the hard work of Jasmine Brown, Keisha Jones and Dominga Smith didn’t go in vain. The past two years of Lady Cougar Basketball has been special. The teams led by Shalayiah Wiggins and Robneisha “Bird” Lee had a path paved for them by the Munford teams of the mid 2000s.
The 2012-13 Lady Cougars made history and played as a team from start to finish under Head Coach Steve Poindexter. And more great things are on the horizon for both basketball and softball.
Oh and don’t think I forgot to mention Whitney Malone or Lauren Zvolanek. I’m saving those names for my volleyball reflection.
In 2005, Malone was part of a great volleyball team at Munford. That team was loaded with Malone, Becca Starnes, Sarah Wright, Kim Karnes, Emily Billings, a young Lizzie McLean and MVP Sarah Chambers.
The Lady Cougars’ lineup, encouraged by Lewis’ Munford Maniacs, reached Sub-State for the first time in school history. But Germantown’s Lauren Thompson was there waiting to end Munford’s magical run.
And it seemed that team would go down as the best in Munford Volleyball history led by the stellar Malone. But then a Flyin’ Hawaiian arrived in the summer of 2007. That freshman gave berth to an era that is still going on at Munford.
Scarlet Gable made a lasting impact with her muscular frame leaping in through the air killing points, blocking the opposition and serving up aces. Gable was the spark needed for the volleyball program and helping make history.
Gable’s 2007 Volleyball team was the first girls’ team in school history to reach a State Tournament. The overhead volley of Brandi Hale was the winning point in the fifth set against Collierville to book the tickets to Murfreesboro. Anderson was the coach of that historical team.
And off that team McLean went on to sign with Christian Brothers University. And the Lady Cougar Volleyball team has reached six straight Sub-States and returned to State in 2010.
That team was led by Kelsey Hale, Schulz and Zvolanek. The trio took the torch from Gable and her sidekick Crystal Williams.
Williams was an explosive athlete in volleyball, basketball and track. She brought home Munford’s first track State title winning the Triple Jump with an attempt more than 39 feet. Williams validated her talent and Head Coach Benard Ivie.
The “Instructor of Speed,” Ivie has guided at least one athlete to the State Track Meet in my tenure at The Star. He came close with one of the best athletes to ever walk through the halls of the new Munford High School, Buck Wakefield.
Wakefield has “it.” From his smile to his skills on the field, Wakefield was worth every penny, every game. He won multiple silver medals in track, and was a Best of Prep caliber basketball player. But he was electrifying on the gridiron. Wakefield signed to play with powerhouse Carson-Newman.
Wakefield was just one of many to enjoy team and individual success at Munford the past 10 years. The list is long of those who reached State like Jeremy Jones in wrestling, Evan Sisung, Matt Gray, Tyler Gray, Cedric Williams and more in track. And Taylor Patterson was a trailblazer in tennis under Barry Bargery. Madison Willis was one of the Cougar Golf standouts to reach State recently. The standout in golf and tennis earned her nicknames as “The Hammer” and “Country Club Warrior.”
Nicknames flowed from Munford like Thomas “June Bug” Watkins, Barry “Buck” Wakefield, Quanesha “Q” Richardson, Melissa “Bucket” Stroud and Stephen “Bobo” Stewart. I even handed out a couple of them like Alex “The Assassin” Stanford and Kelsey “Special K” Hale. The Hale family made their mark with Kelsey and her big sister Brandi reaching State in volleyball.
And family like the Alexanders contributed to Munford Sports with Mama Tena cheering and fund-raising for teams. Her son Corey played for the Cougar Basketball with his best friend “Prince” Jamal Malone in the mid 2000s. Tena’s daughter Sherronda coached freshman girls basketball. One of those players was Q. And she was one of four Richardson children I’ve covered through the years. They all, Quanesha, Marquis, Anton and Kierra, can shoot the rock. And like Mama Tena and her older daughter LaToya have traditional seats at a Munford Basketball game, the Richardson parents can be found in their familiar spot rooting on the Cougars.
For years I’ve heard a familiar voice at Cougar Baseball games rooting the players on. “You can do it!” and “Don’t give up Cougars!” echoing from the backstop encouraging Munford Baseball teams to many victories.
Munford Baseball is a proud program with a strong tradition. And that was on display years ago when players rallied around Thomas Crull’s family. The teenager died suddenly in a car accident. But his teammates honored him on the field and rallied around his family during its time of loss.
This reflection can go on for days. Cougar Town has been one of my favorite shows for the past 10 years — award-winning great. And I’ve just received word the show has been picked up for multiple years. So stay tuned everyone. New stars are emerging like coaches Ahmaad Galloway and Steve Poindexter. And look out for players like Sam Scott, Caine Robinson, Reggie Holmes and Peyton Joyner to make more headlines.
Thanks to all my friends in Cougar Country for keeping me entertained over this decade.
Top 10 Male Athletes
10. Jerry Jackson
9. Tyler Gray
8. Stephen “Bobo” Stewart
7. Caine Robinson
6. Thomas Watkins
5. Jeremy Jones
4. Jeremy Williams
3. Mitch Huelsing
2. Cole Ivie
1. Buck Wakefield
Top 10 Female Athletes
10. Brandi Hale and Madison Willis
9. Lauren Zvolanek
8. Robneisha “Bird” Lee
7. Rolanda Taylor
6. Jodie Duncan
5. Alex Turner
4. Cali Overbeck
3. Sami Jo Schulz
2. Whitney Malone
1. Crystal Williams
Top 10 Teams
10. 2006-07 Lady Cougar Basketball (District Champs)/2012-13 Cougar Basketball (District Tournament Champs)
9. 2007 Lady Cougar Softball (Sub-State)
8. 2006 Cougar Football (Region 7-4A Champs)
7. 2005-06 Lady Cougar Basketball (Undefeated in District)
6. 2005 Lady Cougar Volleyball (Sub-State)
5. 2004 Cougar Baseball (State Appearance)/2010 Lady Cougar Volleyball (State)
4. 2012-13 Lady Cougar Basketball (Sub-State)
3. 2010-13 Lady Cougar Tennis (Four straight Sub-State)
2. 2011-13 Lady Cougar Softball (Three Straight State Appearances)
1. 2007 Lady Cougar Volleyball (First Girls’ Team to State)
Top 10 One-Sport Standouts
10. Carly McLennan/Alex Selby
9. Evan Sisung
8. Sarah Chambers
7. Maegan Wilson
6. Tommy Walker
5. Taylor Patterson
4. Tyler Huelsing
3. Jasmine Brown
2. Cody Overbeck
1. Scarlet Gable
A Goulder Golden Gang
My Munford Lady Cougar All-Star Team with the first nine in the batting order
Sami Jo Schulz 2B
Cali Overbeck SS
Jodie Duncan 3B
Alex Turner OF
Rebekah Moore C
Tara Comer 1B
Carly McLennan OF
Jennifer Pugh OF
Maegan Wilson P
Alex Stanford DH
Maggie Johnson DP
Ashley Reed RP