By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A scoreless tie read clearly on the first-year large scoreboard towering over the Munford Football Stadium.
The rain-soaked structure, field and Munford Cougar faithful were on edge with the visiting Kirby Cougars hanging around last Friday night against the unbeaten host Cougars. Munford Head Coach JR Kirby kept calm as he wondered who would step up for his team.
“Give Kirby a lot of credit, they came in ready,” Kirby said. “They did some things we thought they would do. Defense, we played outstanding. Although we blew two drives on offense. We could have been up 7 or 14 at halftime.
“We went in and just calmed down,” he added. “We didn’t go in there and throw any fits or anything like that. We just settled down and made some adjustments. We went to a Wing-T approach like we did earlier in the year.”
The simplified approached worked after Kirby grabbed a quick lead in the third quarter. Munford dominated the final 23 minutes of the contest to win 17-6.
With rain coming down prior to kickoff, Munford went to offense first driving the ball to midfield. But a fumble ended that series.
The Cougars of Tipton County stopped Kirby with players like Kelton Ham, Garrett Baugh and Jordan Panel stepping up on the defensive line.
“Defense was amazing tonight,” Panel said. “We had a bunch of three and outs. Gave the offense a lot of opportunities to score. The offense came back there in the end and showed them what it was all about.
“We practice in the rain,” he added. “It doesn’t matter if it’s rain, we practice everyday. We’re looking to get better everyday.”
The Munford defense had to stop Kirby once again in the first half after another fumble by the offense.
“We had a little trouble there with the rain in the first half,” Cougar running back Wilson Lowry acknowledged. “We had to push ourselves. Like Panel said, we practice in the rain. This is a daily thing for us. We pushed through it. It’s a four-quarter game and we were ready for four quarters. This is our house.”
For a moment it appeared the visiting Cougars would claim the territory in Tipton County. The Cougars from Memphis grabbed the lead early in the second half aided by a big kickoff return by Herb McGowan. On the next play, Kirby running back Hosea Franklin IV scored on run from 30 yards out with 11 minutes and 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
Munford answered with a long drive sparked by the running of sophomore running back Chaz Hayes. The young speedster saw more reps with the injury to Anthony Boley.
“Give credit to our sophomore running back for stepping up,” Kirby said. “Chaz has shown flashes of greatness. He’s going to be a great back for us. He’s only a sophomore so sometimes he’s a little immature.
“In the preseason he was fumbling the ball and not doing what he needed to do to become a starter,” he continued. “But being the two-platoon system we are and Anthony Boley going down, our sophomore to step up. I couldn’t be more proud. He played his butt off along with our offensive line.”
With 5:37 left in the third quarter Hayes capped of Munford’s drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Dalton McCann’s extra point gave Munford the 7-6 lead.
The Munford defense forced a Kirby fumble giving the offense the ball 35 yards away from another score.
Hayes blasted through the Kirby defense with a run inside the 10-yard line.
“I was ready,” Hayes said. “ I’m always ready. I’m ready every Friday night.
“I get the same amount of reps as our starters do,” he added. “We practice the same stuff. It’s nothing different when you get out there onto the game field. I went for what I know. We do it everyday.”
A couple of plays after Hayes big run, Munford quarterback Jacob Ross tossed an 8-yard TD pass to Lowry to make the score 14-6 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
McCann added some insurance for Munford in the fourth quarter nailing a 28-yard field goal with 7 minutes and 32 seconds remaining. The host Cougars neutralized Kirby the rest of the game to stay perfect on the season at 7-0.
After the game under drier conditions and a scoreboard reading 17-6 in favor of Munford, friends and family gathered around the players to celebrate. Among them were coaches, teachers, administrators and more.
“It’s not only ‘New Munford,’ it’s also ‘One Munford,’” Kirby concluded. “I think before I got here, I don’t think we were all together there in the building. Now with sports and the teachers, we’ve all come together. With this One Munford from administration to the band, cheerleaders to the people in the stands, everyone is pulling for everybody. Winning helps that.”
Munford will return to action this Thursday night against Overton at Southwind with a 7 p.m. kickoff.