Before Munford took the field at home last Friday night against St. Benedict, Cougar coach Slade Calhoun had a message for his team.
“I told the guys if we could get to the fourth quarter we’d have a good shot and that’s how it shook out,” Calhoun said.
With 12 seconds left in the game and St. Benedict leading 16-12, Munford faced a fourth and goal from the SBA 16-yard line.
Senior quarterback Jaxon O’Neal capped off a very impressive game with a TD pass to Kelton Mason to give the Cougars a dramatic 19-16 win.
“It was definitely a crazy series of events,” Calhoun said.
St. Benedict (0-1) led 13-6 through three quarters.
An 86-yard TD pass from O’Neal to Traveon Hawkins cut the lead to 13-12 midway through the fourth quarter. The extra point was missed following a 15-yard penalty against Munford (2-1).
St. Benedict kicked a field goal on its next drive to go ahead 16-12.
O’Neal, who completed 9 of 14 passes for 169 yards and ran for 88 more, hit Mason on a 44-yard pass to get Munford inside the SBA five. A couple of miscues pushed Munford back to the 16, setting up the dramatic final play.
St. Benedict’s defense was led by defensive lineman Walter Nolen, who is ranked as the number one Class of 2022 player in the nation. He made some plays, but like the rest of the SBA team, appeared to tire late. It was St. Benedict’s first game of the season.
“We’ve got a bunch of no-name guys out there blocking the number one player in the Class of 2022,” Calhoun said. “He got tired and so did their team. We were in way better shape than them. Every coach will say you can’t simulate playing a game until you play a game.”
St. Benedict went ahead 6-0 on their first play of the game when Elijah Mills broke a 65-yard TD run. Munford’s defense clamped down after that, allowing just 85 yards the rest of the game.
Icarius Hodgin led the defense with seven tackles and Jake Bradley added six to go along with a sack and a half and a batted down pass.
Munford’s first TD came in the first quarter on a 10-yard run by Hawkins.
SBA went ahead 13-6 in the second quarter when Caleb Dougherty picked off an O’Neal pass and scored.
Calhoun said his team has steadily improved after a season-opening loss to Covington.
“That’s the name of the game, to get better every week,” he said. “Championships aren’t won the first game of the year. I don’t think we’re as bad of a football team as we looked in Week 1, but not where we probably should be. That was a pretty admirable win, though.”