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'I' on the Ball: Former Covington coach J.R. Kirby baptized as a Cougar

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Munford's McKenzie Russell puts some pressure on Covington quarterback Malcolm Taylor during action Friday night in Covington. Russell, who played for Covington last year, helped the Cougars to a 10-7 win. Photo courtesy Phil Ramsey/covingtonchargerfootball.com

Comparing Munford's win Friday night over Covington to a religious experience may be a classic case of journalistic hyperbole.
But when first-year Cougar head coach J.R. Kirby got a jug of water dumped on his head moments after the 10-7 season-opening win, it looked kind of like a baptism.
A bit of context is necessary to fully understand.
Kirby served as an assistant at Covington during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, which ended in a state semifinal and state title game, respectively.
He was a big reason for the team's success and was well-liked by his players. A photo of him celebrating with a group of Chargers after a big playoff win in 2012 appeared on the front page of this paper.
It's also worth noting that the program he took over last January was coming off a miserable season that included just two wins and a coach that was suspended before he resigned midway through the season.
Also important to know is that, entering Friday night's game in Covington, Munford had lost three straight games to the Chargers.
When hired, Kirby vowed to get things headed in the right direction.
While there are plenty of games left to play this season, the feeling among Munford's coaches, players and fans Friday night was that Kirby is doing what he promised.
"I've always looked forward to beating Covington my senior year," said Munford running back Brent Rhea, who scored the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. "I've lost to them every year in my high school career. Coach Kirby told us he has our back, and we have is back. There wasn't a doubt in my mind he knew what he was doing.
"It means a lot," said Munford senior Jovanny Rutiaga, who kicked the game-winning field goal. "He was coach here for a long time and now he's with us and I'm proud to have him."
"What a great way for our kids to find a way to win," Kirby said. "On the road in a hostile environment against a team and a program that's used to winning. We found a way to win. It was just a huge night. It's a good day to be a Cougar."
Kirby received countless hugs and handshakes while standing on the field after the win. It was the very field where he helped the Chargers win a playoff game that sent them to the state title game in 2012.
One of the longest hugs he received came from senior McKenzie Russell, who transferred from Covington to Munford over the summer.
It seemed appropriate: Two former Chargers, who had just been officially baptized as Cougars, soaking up the moment.

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