By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Two different 1-1 records walked off the turf of the Munford Football Stadium Friday night.
As the 2018 edition of the M&M Bowl concluded, the visiting Millington Trojans were humbled after having several big plays but still coming up short. Meanwhile the Munford Cougars sent the home crowd home rejuvenated bouncing back from a season-opening defeat to other area rival Covington.
The Cougars (1-1) were victorious 50-30 over familiar foe Millington. The Trojans entered the M&M Bowl after a 21-13 win over the Bolton Wildcats.
The opening week wasn’t as joyful for the Cougars losing 55-14 to the Chargers. So the M&M Bowl presented a chance for Munford to bounce back.
“We’re young,” Munford Head Coach Nick Markle said. “It’s a deal that I told our coaches after the Covington game, ‘We’re a team that is so inexperienced that we’ll improve week to week.’ The more reps these young guys get the better off and the more comfortable they’ll be out there on the field.
“We still had big time mistakes tonight,” he continued. “They had big play after big play after big play. We’ve got to cut that out. If we’re going to beat the Ridgeways, the Southwinds and the Kirbys we can’t give up those types of plays. We’ve got to make them grind it out like we do.”
Within two minutes of the 2018 M&M Bowl, Cougar Jesse Savage sparked Munford toward victory with an interception return for a touchdown. The score was 6-0 at the 10:30 mark of the first quarter.
But the Trojans came to battle answering the turnover score with quarterback Tommy Clifton breaking loose for a 46-yard run to the house giving Millington a 7-6 advantage.
The Trojans (1-1) added to their advantage with a 37-yard field goal. Millington was ahead 10-6 after one quarter.
Munford regained the lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Ja’Shawn Adell keep the snap and raced to the end zone from 29 yards out. The Cougars went ahead 14-10.
The Munford advantage grew to 20-10 with 5:45 remaining in the first half when fullback Tobie Smith blasted through the Trojan defensive line for a 13-yard TD.
Moments later an Adell to Savage 37-yard connection resulted in a touchdown making the tally 27-10 with a minute left in the second quarter.
As it appeared the Cougars were ready to run away with the M&M Bowl, Trojan speedster Eddie Macklin had an answer. Once he gathered the kickoff on the 5-yard line, Macklin raced up the middle of the field almost untouched. After a couple of moves, Macklin blazed up the sideline for the touchdown to make the score 27-17.
But before the Millington fight song was finished by the band, Munford’s Treveon Hawkins took the opposing kickoff inside the 30 and blasted up the sideline for a Cougar touchdown. It was time for the Munford Band to strike up ‘Rocky Top’ and make the large Munford scoreboard read 34-17.
“This helped them get some confidence,” Markle said. “I expect us to springboard off of this moving forward.”
After Covington displayed its potential to return to the State championship game against Munford, the Cougars had to show their coaching staff they had mental toughness in Week 2.
“Heart, drive and desire to win,” Markle said needs to improve. “Last week I think the stage was a little too big for them. Some of the guys were wide eyed. Covington is a great team and they just ran the ball at will against us. It was so fast and we couldn’t adjust.
“These guys fought hard all night,” he added. “It wasn’t pretty but they didn’t quit. They rallied to the ball on defense and on offense we tried our best to block until the whistle.”
Before the final horn sounded, the Cougars scored 16 points in the second half and held the Trojans to 13 points.
Munford was ahead 36-17 at the end of the third quarter after Smith blocked a Millington punt attempt. Trojan punter Josh Allred recovered the ball in the end zone as the Cougars tapped him for the safety.
Smith scored in a more traditional way in the fourth quarter with a 4-yard TD making the score 43-17.
Millington’s next score came courtesy of another Clifton big run. The junior signal caller broke loose for a 51-yard touchdown run. The score was 43-24 in favor of Munford.
Munford’s final score of the night came courtesy of a 42-yard run from Hawkins. The last touchdown of the night was scored by Trojan running back Je’fonzo Smith from 43-yards out.
Now the Cougars look to maintain the momentum from the M&M Bowl victory taking on the Overton Wolverines in Memphis Friday.
Meanwhile the Trojans have to travel by one of the best Class 6A teams in the state in the Germantown Red Devils.
Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said it is his team’s turn to learn a mental lesson.
“A lot of them are in the early stages of their career,” he noted of his players. “There’s a handful of them who have been around here for three years now. The older ones know because I’ve preached it particularly in the past three or four years. Through the battles and struggles, that you can’t win this game on physical ability alone.
“We have enough to be able to compete,” Michael continued. “When we execute and do things right, we compete. Munford has a good football team. They took one on the chin last week. They do what they do and they’re good at it. It’s a style you don’t see everywhere. So defensively you’ve got to be disciplined all night long.”
When the Trojans were not disciplined against Munford, the Cougars fun success.
“When you have a mental breakdown — first down,” Michael said. “When you have a mental breakdown — touchdown. It’s first down after first down after first down. You can’t sit our there and endure fullback running three yards after three yards on every play. You just can’t do it. It wears you down more than physically. It wears you down mentally.”
Before taking the field against the unbeaten Red Devils, Michael wants to see his Trojans take a step forward mentally.
“We’re not going to worry about Germantown,” he said. “Germantown is going to be Germantown. They’re going to do what they do. They’re going to probably be the representative over here in the State Semifinals out of West Tennessee. Wouldn’t surprise me at all because that’s the kind of talent they’ve got.
“I hope for my team is that we improve on execution,” Michael concluded. “Does the mean we’ll execute successfully against Germantown? I don’t know. They’ve got a lot of dudes. And their dudes are bigger dudes and they’ve got a lot of them. So my goal this week is to improve on execution.”