By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Although the Kirby/Ross administration only lasted two seasons at Munford, the duo combined for two playoff appearances while compiling 15 wins.
JR Kirby has departed from his post as head coach of the Cougars to join the Crockett County staff. Jacob Ross graduated and will be remembered as the quarterback who guided the Cougars to an 8-0 start in 2015.
Now the combination of new Head Coach Nick Markle and signal caller Nathan Davenport look to keep the good times rolling.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressure,” Davenport acknowledged. “Coming from an 8-0 start last year. We just need to do that again and finish it this time.
“Hard work,” the junior quarterback said he will continue doing in the preseason. “And I expect a lot of things out of myself. You’ve always got to be confident.”
Markle is confident in his young QB. The first-year Munford leader has the choir of replacing key players like Ross, Wilson Lowry, Anthony Boley, Jordan Panel, Christian Brooks and Kelton Ham.
With talent like Davenport, Garrett Baugh, Joseph Watkins, Jalen Wakefield, Tyler Cody and Marcus Webb returning, Markle accepted the promotion from his defensive coordinator position.
“I tell my kids, things happen for a reason,” he said. “Coach Kirby ended up making a decision that was best for him and his family and moved onto Crockett County.
“I just felt an obligation to these guys,” Markle continued. “We came in here two years ago and really started from scratch building this thing up. My thing was, I wasn’t going to leave and watch this thing go either way. I didn’t want to see it go down or neither did I wanted to see them succeed with me sitting there thinking, ‘What if.’ It’s always those what ifs.”
The Cougars’ defense was under Markle’s guidance for two seasons going 7-3 and 8-2.
Markle’s journey to Munford started in 2008 at Union City High School. He was a part of the 2009 State championship staff. Then he returned home to Fayette Academy to be the defensive coordinator for four seasons.
Markle joined Kirby’s staff and helped the renaissance of Cougar Football.
“I wanted to be here for these guys because they’ve done a lot for us the past two years,” Markle said. “They’ve bought into what we were selling. I felt like I owed it to them, my wife and my family to stay put and see it through.
“The kids took it very well,” he added. “They’re very resilient. We had another coach leave us during Dead Period. And they have not slowed down. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of with these guys.”
Part of the transition this preseason is building the confidence of Davenport with the Munford offense.
“I am a smart player,” Davenport said. “My best attribute is running the ball. I will be an athlete back there. We can be good. We’ve got to put in the hard work and execute all the plays. If we do that, we’ll win every game.”
Davenport said Markle is keeping him level headed during the process.
“If you do it wrong,” he said. “He’s going to coach you up. He’s not going to yell at you and bring you down. He has a family atmosphere. ‘Come on, pick it up. You got it on the next play.’”
Davenport said he can be a treat running or passing on plays Markle will call in 2016. And he said if the offense executes while the defense locks down on opponents, the Cougars will have another winning season.
“I expect victories,” he said. “I expect wins this year. That’s what Munford does especially the past two years.”
Markle said from his new quarterback to his senior leaders, the 2016 Cougars will play with a chip on their shoulders.
“They know they’ve got something good going on here,” he concluded. “And they’re not going to let anything derail that and what they’re trying to accomplish. I have the most respect for my young men on this team.”