After the second play from scrimmage Friday night, a couple of Munford fans who had made the trip to Cordova to watch the Cougars play Evangelical Christian School yelled, “Watch No. 24, they’re going to give it to No. 24!”
Munford head coach Slade Calhoun, the rest of his coaching staff and Munford’s defenders were fully aware that Jaylen Greenwood, who entered the game averaging 187 rushing yards per game (second in the Shelby-Metro area), was going to get a bunch of carries. It made no difference, though.
Greenwood, a speedy 5-9 junior, rushed for 195 yards on 16 carries in the first half and finished with 257 to lead ECS, last year’s DII-AA state champs and the state’s top-ranked team in that division this year, to a 28-6 win over Munford.
“They’re great,” Calhoun said. “You know, they don’t just hand you state championships. They have a tailback with several D-I offers and I think he’s the two-time 100-meter state champ. He can fly. Their left tackle (Dietrick Pennington) is committed to Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, and they have a lot of other great players.”
The Eagles (6-2) scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game to take a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter, but Munford (6-3) settled down after that.
Ben Cerniglia recovered a Greenwood fumble at midfield and the Cougars, thanks to some strong running from Auvic White and a first down completion from Jaxon O’Neal to Icarius Hodgin, drove to the ECS seven yard line.
A 24-yard field goal attempt by Antonio Mennis was blocked, but the Cougar defense forced an ECS punt on the ensuing possession to stay in the game.
At that point, ECS’s rushing attack took over. Jamison Smith scored on a 38-yard run with 3:45 left in the first half and Greenwood provided the dagger on an 85-yard TD run with 39 seconds left before halftime.
“We learned a valuable lesson,” Calhoun said. “The second quarter just flat killed us. We gave up two touchdowns right there in the last five minutes.”
Munford’s defense shut out ECS in the second half and the offense put together a 55-yard, 15-play drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a seven-yard TD run by O’Neal, who also completed 6 of 15 passes for 76 yards. White had 115 yards on 22 carries.
“I was proud of the way our guys came out and fought in the second half,” Calhoun said. “We shut them out in the second half. You have to find the positives.”
Munford, which will pick up a COVID forfeit win this Friday over Kingsbury to move to 7-3, now turns its attention to the playoffs. As the Region 8-5A champ, the Cougars will most likely host Clarksville in the first round on Nov. 6. Clarksville beat Munford 29-28 in the first round last season.
“We can start getting ready for them and get some guys healthy,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got a couple of guys nicked up and we need to get them healthy. It gives us a chance next week to focus on us and maybe dedicate a day or two to playoff prep. A week head start is huge.”