When the Cougars had the ball during Friday night’s Region 8-5A showdown at home against Brighton, Munford head coach Slade Calhoun, for the most part, had his back to the action.
That’s not the way it typically goes for a head coach, but Friday’s game was far from typical. A season-opening loss to Covington not withstanding, Munford’s defense had been dominant all season. It was not Friday night.
Brighton racked up 399 rushing yards and Calhoun spent a lot of his time during the game with his defense watching what had just happened on a big screen and trying to correct the problem.
Munford’s defense finally got a stop when it mattered most and won a wild one, 39-34.
“We struggled. We hadn’t seen that in a minute,” Calhoun said after the game. “We’re small. We’re built to defend the spread. Coach (Mike) David, he’s methodical. My buddy over there, Jamie Comer, he’s the offensive line coach and he’s outstanding. He had them fired up … We got our guys moved around late when it mattered. Once they got back in the spread with under a minute to go it was a deep sigh of relief because that’s what we want.”
Brighton’s Nick Harvell and Braxton Sharp were nearly unstoppable for much of the game, combining for 389 rushing yards.
When Harvell, who played quarterback most of the game, broke a 66-yard touchdown run with 3:39 left in the third quarter, Brighton (3-2) led 34-23 and appeared to be in control of the game.
Munford (4-1) answered on its next possession with a 71-yard, 12-play drive that culminated with a beautiful 13-yard TD catch by Traveon Hawkins.
After Munford stopped Brighton at the Cougar 33, Munford drove 77 yards and went ahead 39-34 on a 37-yard quarterback run by Jaxon O’Neal with 4:48 left in the game.
Brighton took over possession at its own 20 and moved to the Munford 30 with 17 seconds left. Icarius Hodgin intercepted a Tyler Todd pass in the end zone to put an end to things.
O’Neal had his best game of the season, completing 10 of 20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 49.
“Honestly, I had confidence,” O’Neal said when asked what was going through his mind with his team down 11 late in the third quarter. “I told Tra (Traveon Hawkins), ‘We got this. I feel it.’ We just came out and did our thing.”
It was Brighton’s best offensive game of the season by far. Harvell ran 24 times for 235 yards and Sharp added 154 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Brighton opened the game in a spread formation with Todd at quarterback. Harvell moved to quarterback midway through the first quarter and the Cardinals started running almost exclusively.
“When we went to the run with Nick, he was on fire,” Brighton coach Mike David said. “We were going to stay with what was working.”
Munford went ahead 8-0 on a 28-yard TD run by Auvic White (17 carries, 129 yards). A 46-yard scoring run by Sharp tied the game. A 27-yard field goal by Antonio Mennis and an eight-yard run by White put Munford ahead 17-8 early in the second quarter.
Sharp scored on a 16-yard run and Harvell hit Bryce Chaco on a 16-yard TD pass just before halftime to put Brighton ahead 20-17. Sharp scored again on a 21-yard run to give Brighton a 28-17 lead with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
With all of the other teams in Region 8-5A sidelined because of COVID-19, Munford likely won the region title with the win. Brighton should be second and would still host a playoff game.
“I told the guys we’re region champs,” Calhoun said. “Those Memphis teams aren’t playing.”
“It’s kind of early for that kind of stuff,” David said when asked about possible playoff scenarios. “We’ve been taking it one week at a time and we’re just going to keep moving forward. We’re proud of the way the kids fought tonight and came back. They just kept fighting. I feel bad we’re on the wrong side of the scoreboard tonight, but, again, I’m very proud of our team.”