Things could not have gone much better for the Cardinals through one quarter of their matchup Friday night at Munford.
Brighton found the end zone on two of its first three possessions and, a year after getting run of the field by its bitter rival, found itself ahead 14-13.
But multiple turnovers and special teams miscues by Brighton, not to mention a potent Munford offense, led to another blowout win for the Cougars.
Munford (7-1 overall, 3-1 Region 8-5A) scored six straight touchdowns to erase Brighton’s lead and went on to win comfortably, 55-20.
“You hit the nail on the head,” said Brighton first-year coach Keith Setler when asked if turnovers/special teams mistakes were the difference in the game. “To be honest with you, I had a whole other sequence of things I was going to talk to you about. I was pretty positive about this game plan. But we’re still not consistent as a team protecting the football and we’re still not consistent as a team tackling the football. When you’re not tackling the football or protecting the football, you don’t deserve to win.”
“That’s the name of the game,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said about forcing turnovers. “I feel like we’re pretty good on offense, but you can win a bunch of games on defense taking the ball away and being good on special teams.”
Ahead 7-6, Brighton (3-5, 1-3) was looking to add to its lead midway through the first quarter when Tyler Williams picked off a deflected pass from Cade Crowson and took it 35 yards to the end zone to put Munford ahead 13-7.
Brighton answered with a nice drive. Crowson (10-for-15 passing, 83 yards) hit Taylon Carpenter (five catches, 47 yards) on a nine-yard TD pass with 26 seconds left in the first quarter to put Brighton ahead 14-13, but the Cardinals didn’t score again until Bryan Bratcher hit Tay Bonner on a 37-yard TD pass in the closing seconds of the game.
“We still gotta get better,” Calhoun said. “That busted coverage when we let them hit 20 (points), that’s embarrassing. That’s guys thinking the game’s over and not being in the game mentally. That’s how you get sent home early in the playoffs … Aside from that, I’ll take it. There are no bad wins. We just have to keep doing our thing.”
Three Brighton turnovers (two interceptions, one lost fumble) were certainly game changers. Munford did not not turn the ball over at all. However, special teams miscues were also huge. Bricen Turnage returned a blocked punt 23 yards for a score in the second quarter and a bad punt snap just before halftime led to another Munford touchdown.
Jaelon Dowell returned a Brighton fumble 87 yards for a score in the fourth quarter that pushed Munford’s lead to 54-14.
Jordan Bell paced Munford’s offense, completing 3 of 6 passes for 75 yards and rushing seven times for 101 yards and a touchdown. Kollin Collier caught a 31-yard TD pass from Bell and Ty Stark had 60 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
“We played great, but every week we have some things we need to improve on,” Stark said. “We’re just focused on being a better us every week.”
Pierce Meacham led Brighton’s rushing attack with 66 yards and a TD on 23 carries.
Munford is in the playoffs. A win vs. Memphis Central in Week 10 would clinch a second seed and a home playoff game. Brighton is fifth in the standings and would need to beat first-place Southwind in Week 10 to have a chance to make the postseason.
“I’ve told these guys I’m going to coach them to the last whistle,” Setler said. “This offseason, get ready. This is year one for us and I’m not going anywhere.”