By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Since last Friday night, all the talk and headlines in Munford were about the return of the M&M Bowl trophy to Cougar Town.
And names like Jacob Ross, Anthony Boley, Wilson Lowry, Michael Pugh and Dakota Hope dominated most of the post game discussions from Tipton County to Flag City.
Although the Munford skill position players contributed to the 41-18 victory over the Millington Trojans in the 2015 M&M Bowl, Cougar quarterback Ross said the real heroes of the night were the five young men on the offensive line: Josh Enger, Jesse Maley, Tyler Cody, Christian Brooks and Aaron Sykes.
“Our linemen were amazing tonight,” he said. “They got on their re-keys and their blocks. I just ran the offense and our backs made them (the Trojans) pay.
“Our defense stopped them when they needed to,” Ross added. “They got us the ball where we wanted. It all just worked out for us tonight.”
The game plan of Head Coach JR Kirby led to the 23-point victory and the Cougars first win in the series since 2012.
Kirby’s first M&M Bowl was last season with the Trojans taking the contest 41-13.
“Last year we were coming down the hill hoping to win,” he recalled. “We didn’t play very well — turned over the ball four times. Eldon and the rest of them just lit us up. We could never recover. It was a great learning experience from that. I think it got us better the rest of that season.
“This year when we took the field, we expected to win,” Kirby added. “We put the work in, our kids played hard and I guess it’s a good day to be a Cougar.”
The Cougars’ good day started with a long first-quarter drive. Munford (2-0) ate up nearly 8 minutes of clock in the first quarter driving the field 65 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Early in the drive Cougar senior quarterback Jacob Ross gained 11 yards on third and eight to the 26-yard line. Then Wilson Lowry picked up a first down with an 8-yard run to the 12 yard line. Moments later Anthony Boley capped off the drive with a 3-yard score.
The Munford defense came to play as well with Kelton Ham sacking Millington quarterback Eldon Tyms to shut down the Trojans’ first drive.
The Cougars were ahead 7-0 after one period. Munford added six points to its advantage in the second quarter when Boley scored again, this time from 5 yards out.
Trailing 13-0, the Trojans struck quickly to try to get back into the game. Millington had an 8-second drive when Tyms dropped back and hit receiver Kip Fleming in stride for a 59-yard TD to make the score 13-6 in favor of Munford.
It appeared the Millington defense finally got the stop it needed late in the second quarter forcing a fourth down and 11 yard situation. Kirby and his staff called for a fake punt, snapping the ball to Garrett Baugh.
Baugh raced up the sideline for the first down and was tackled at the 17 yard line. Ross made the Trojans pay with a quarterback keeper to cross the goal line making the score 20-6 with a minute and 33 second left in the first half.
A few second later, the Cougar defense came up with another big play when Michael Pugh picked off a Tyms attempt.
The Cougars were ready for a back-breaking play with Ross throwing his first pass of the night. The senior signal caller hit a wide open Dakota Hope for a 35-yard gain to the 13-yard line.
With 5.1 seconds remaining in the half, Hope had the honors of scoring the final touchdown of the half from 8-yards out to give Munford a 27-6 lead.
In the second half, Millington had some hope when Keno Taylor scored on a 1-yard run. The junior running back’s touchdown was set up by a Tyms to Fleming pass play.
The Trojans (1-1) cut the deficit to 27-12. The Cougars were not phased sticking to the game plan. Early in the fourth quarter Ross scored again to cap off a long drive. This time it was a 9-yard TD run to make the score 34-12.
Millington tried to keep its hopes alive when Tyms took a snap on fourth down and 8. The senior QB took off running and ended up racing 59 yards to the end zone for a touchdown to make the score 34-18 with 9 minutes and 46 seconds left in the game.
But the night belonged to the power running game of Munford. The Cougars had the final score of the night when Lowry scored on a 2-yard run on a 5-minute drive to make the final 41-18.
“Pretty much we flipped the script and won this in dominate fashion,” Kirby said. “We didn’t turnover the ball and forced some. That was the story of the game and controlling the clock.
“Keeping Tyms, Kip and the rest of them off the field so they couldn’t do what they do,” he continued. “That was the game plan. They get their chance they’re going to take it. We knew that. So our best defense was our offense.”
Ross said the Cougars offense came to Millington to do a job and the M&M Bowl defeat of 2014 served as motivation to get the job done.
“We were trying to learn how to win,” he said of last season. “We weren’t used to it. We have one winning season under our belt. They thought they were going to roll us over but we stuck it out. We have become a family. We just worked on it and we rolled.
“It feels amazing,” Ross added. “It was a big turn around for us. We ended up finishing last season great. But not having that win, we wanted to come out and just demolish them this time.”
Kirby said the key to the 2015 M&M Bowl was the maturity of Ross under center.
“I told him, ‘Look son, it’s back to business,’” Kirby recalled of a recent conversation with Ross. “‘We’ve been here before. We’ve been through a lot of battles through the Spring and even in the playoffs last year.’
“Last year he got punked out there against Millington,” he continued. “He played scared. This year he played like a senior. He played like a veteran. He did a great job running our offense and reading them. He sucked it up down there when he got banged up. I couldn’t be more proud of my senior quarterback.”
The senior quarterback said the Cougars will celebrate the M&M Bowl victory but now focus on the new Region.
“It feels amazing but this is not the last game,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate it this weekend and Monday when we come back we’re going to work for Wooddale — Region.”
Munford returns to the field next Friday hosting Wooddale in the Cougars’ first Region contest of the season with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Trojans try to bounce back traveling to Hernando next Friday.
Munford looks to improve to 3-0 after rivalry wins against Covington and Millington.
“We’re trying to build a program here,” Kirby concluded. “And we have some kids here who can achieve it and win with.”