By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Munford Cougars have traveled the road the 2015 Brighton Cardinals are currently navigating.
In 2014 the Cougars just kept winning and surprising opponents having a chance to win the District 13-3A title in the final week of the regular season. Entering this campaign some experts expected a solid record from the 2015 Cougars — maybe not unbeaten after eight games.
As for their rivals five minutes up the road in Brighton, 2014 was a humbling year for the Cardinals. Robin Jacobs’ flock missed the playoffs and suffered a losing record.
When the Cardinals took to the Brighton Football Stadium field last Friday in front of a packed house, they had the chance to upset their undefeated rivals and claim a share of first place in the Region.
In thrilling fashion, Brighton was able to pull out a 24-20 victory and continue its renaissance season.
“We were 2-8 last year and now we’re 8-1,” Jacobs said. “Nobody gave us a chance coming into this season and coming into tonight. And they (the Cougars) didn’t give it to us at all.”
The standing-room only crowd witnessed a seesaw fourth quarter. Before the thrilling final 12 minutes, it appeared the Cougars were on their way toward a 9-0 record building a 13-3 halftime lead.
Munford’s Anthony Boley put the Cougars ahead 6-0 with an early score. Brighton cut the deficit in half when Nolan Combs hit a field goal.
After a Cardinal turnover, the Cougars drove the ball 45 yards capping it off with a Wilson Lowry 1-yard score. JR Kirby’s bunch was ahead by 10 at the break.
“I’m just proud of my kids,” Jacobs said. “They were resilient in the second half. It’s an old cliché but we just played better in the second half. They have a good team. It was just who had the ball last.”
Brighton (8-1) finally crossed the goal line in the third quarter when Malik Jackson tossed a touchdown pass to Malik Mathews to make the score 13-10.
Munford (8-1) closed out the third quarter when an answer from the legs of quarterback Jacob Ross. The senior broke loose for a big run to reach the end zone. The Cougars were ahead 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. Then it was time for both teams to jump ahead the turnover seesaw. Early in the fourth quarter Munford’s Garrett Baugh raced over to pick off a Brighton pass giving the Cougars the ball on 37-yard line.
Moments later Munford gave the ball right back to Brighton with a fumble. The Cougars didn’t panic with Marcus Webb intercepting the ball for Munford.
That set the table for the biggest turnover of the night. On a deep ball thrown by the Cougars, Brighton’s Deavius Terry extended his arms and gathered in the over thrown pass. Terry raced up field behind blockers before being tackled at the 10-yard line.
With 8 minutes and 3 seconds remaining, Jackson threw his second touchdown of the game hitting slot receiver Austin Kelley for the 7-yard score to make the tally 20-17.
The Cardinal defense forced a Munford punt with 5 minutes and 43 seconds left in the game. Brighton Head Coach Robin Jacobs employed his offense to run the ball with the drive starting 61 yards away from the end zone.
“They had to throw it and we had to run it,” he said. “Sort of the opposite. We get Dee’s big interception and he almost runs it back. That turned it around for us.
The duo of Mathews and Zach Camp followed the orders of the Brighton coaching staff running the ball for four first downs. With less than 2 minutes remaining, Mathews had the honors of taking the ball into the end zone from 3 yards out to give Brighton the 24-20 lead.
It was up to the Cardinal defense to hold the lead. Brighton defenders KJ Adams and Cameron John sacked Ross respectively to give the Cardinals the victory.
“I just said we had to get him,” John said. “If we didn’t get him he would have thrown that ball down the field. Then who knows what would happen? So I had to do what I had to do.
“They beat us last year and that really broke us,” he added. “So we had to do what we had to do tonight. It didn’t really matter with them being undefeated. We just wanted to beat them.”
The Cardinals earned their desired victory. And the students took to the field to celebrate.
“To get this win took everything we’ve got,” John concluded. “We never gave up — we never gave up on any downs.”
Munford will try to bounce back from it’s first defeat of the season taking on Memphis Central in the season finale. Brighton will travel to Bolton to close out the 2015 regular season.