Munford did not look much like a playoff team after an opening game blowout loss to Covington and a less-than-impressive win over Millington the following week.
Fast forward five weeks and the Cougars have not only clinched a playoff spot but look like a team that could win its region and host a first-round playoff game.
The Cougars (5-2 overall, 3-1 Region 8-5A) erased a pair of two-touchdown deficits Friday in Memphis against Ridgeway (3-4, 2-1) to pull out a dramatic 34-31 overtime win.
Munford is now tied atop the league standings with Southwind. Four league teams have just one region loss, so the tiebreaker scenarios could be complicated. However, if Munford wins its remaining three games it will likely be the region champ. If Munford can beat Kirby at home Oct. 18, the Cougars will finish no worse than second and host a playoff game.
“Oh, absolutely,” Munford coach Nick Markle said when asked if he thought people outside of the Munford program are surprised how well the team is doing. “Those first games are kind of a feeling-out process sometimes. It’s like I tell our guys, this is the time of year where you want to be peaking. We don’t want to be at our best in Week 3, Week 4. Weeks 7, 8 and 9 are when we want to shine.”
Munford running back Treveon Hawkins scored on a short run with less than three minutes left in regulation and Jesse Savage’s extra point tied the game at 28-28.
Ridgeway got the ball first in overtime. The Munford defense stopped a reverse play for an eight-yard loss on third and goal from the six and the Roadrunners kicked a field goal to go ahead 31-28.
One play later, Hawkins scored from the 10 to set off a wild celebration on the Munford sideline.
Things did not look good for the Cougars early.
Ridgeway drove for a touchdown on its opening possession and returned a punt for another touchdown moments later for a 14-0 lead.
Munford quarterback Jaxon O’Neal threw his first touchdown pass of the season, a five-yarder to Ben Cerniglia, midway through the second quarter to trim the lead to 14-7. Auvic White scored on a 15-yard run later in the quarter, but a missed extra point left Munford behind 14-13 at the half.
The second half started like the first when Ridgeway, after an unsuccessful Munford onside kick, drove for a score. Ridgeway recovered an onside kick moments later and scored again to go ahead 28-13 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
O’Neal got Munford back in the game with a 68-yard rushing TD. White added a two-point run to make the score 28-21, setting up the dramatic ending.
Munford did not commit a turnover and the defense forced Ridgeway to drive the field on three of its four touchdowns.
“It’s like I say all the time, if we can play good defense and not turn the ball over and have a chance to win at the end of the game, that’s all we can ever ask for,” Markle said. “We just need to stick to that recipe. If we can we’ve got a shot.”
Markle said his team has not made any dramatic changes since a rough start to the season.
“We don’t really try to change much. We just try and improve what we do. Our game plan is pretty much always the same: Run the ball right at ‘em and make them make plays. Our offense just puts a lot of pressure on defenses, especially these defenses that never see it.”