The last four times Munford and Covington played each other, the Charger running attack repeatedly burned the Cougars with long running plays.
Midway through the first quarter of last night’s season opener between the two county rivals in Covington, Sklyan Smith broke a 45-yard touchdown run to put the Chargers ahead 7-0. There were certainly fans for both teams thinking to themselves here we go again.
This game, however, followed a drastically different script than the previous four, all of which were Covington blowout wins.
Munford’s defense held Covington to just 102 more rushing yards the rest of the game in a 28-7 Cougar win.
“Coach (Zach) Rogowski (the defensive coordinator) did a great job,” said Munford head coach Slade Calhoun, moments after getting doused with a jug full of Gatorade. “The whole defensive staff, Coach (Hunter) Peery and Coach (Jeremy) Carter, just did great getting the defense ready. I’m super proud of those guys. I think we had four sophomores and just two or three seniors out there. We had to make some adjustments on the fly and our young guys did a great job.”
“I don’t even know how many plays we had tonight on offense,” Covington head coach J.R. Kirby said. “It seemed like we didn’t have it very long. It was really surprising. I was really proud of our kids, though. I’m really surprised it wasn’t worse than 28-7, to be honest with you.”
Munford ran 57 plays compared to just 34 for Covington and the Cougars dominated time of possession.
After Covington got on the board first, Isaiah Cobbs returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for an apparent touchdown. The play was called back on a holding penalty, but Munford came up with a seven-play, 54-yard touchdown drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown run by Braxton Sharp. Jeremiah Sullins ran in the two-point conversion to put the Cougars ahead 8-7 and they never trailed again.
A couple of Covington special teams miscues also played a large role in the game.
The first came when Munford’s Tristan Bohannon recovered a pooch kick following Munford’s first score. Eight plays later, Jace Hodgin scored from four yards out to put Munford ahead 14-7.
Midway through the third quarter, Jay Dancey recovered another short kickoff for Munford. Two plays later, Jordan Bell hit Isaiah Cobbs in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score and a 28-7 Munford lead.
Munford’s third touchdown came on its first possession of the second half when an eight-play, 65-yard drive ended with a nine-yard touchdown by Sharp, who was playing his first game for Munford after transferring from Brighton. Sharp finished with 150 yards on 28 carries.
“It’s just how it worked out,” Sharp said when asked if the plan was to control the clock with long drives. “I had it in my mind that we score, keep our distance from them and let the clock roll. We’re not 100 percent yet, but we’re getting there. It’s just week one.”
As far as how his first game went with his new team, Sharp said, “It was the greatest feeling. I loved it. Better than I could imagine.”
Cobbs was also playing his first game with Munford. The transfer from White Station had a huge impact on the game. He caught all five of Bell’s completions for 83 yards.
Bell said his first game with Cobbs went well.
“It was a pretty solid game. We’ve got things we’ve got to work on, but it was pretty solid for our first game together.”
“We didn’t do enough to get off the field on defense all night,” Kirby said. “They blocked us all night. They pretty much whipped us up front pretty good. We had some momentum after a turnover and was able to score and I thought we were on our way. Give them credit. They were able to slow the ballgame down. Jordan Bell made some big throws when he needed to.”
In last year’s 41-8 Covington win, the Chargers racked up 468 rushing yards. They had just 147 last night. Smith had 91 yards on four carries. Jamarion Dowell, a Mr. Football semifinalist last season, was held to 35 yards on 11 carries.
“The defense was locked in 24 hours before the game, really 48 hours,” Bell said. They went out there and got the job done when we needed it.”
“I knew they were going to ball out tonight,” Sharp said about his team’s defense. “That’s the thing, we have a very underrated defense. l think this game really showed what they can do.”
Hunter Perry led Munford’s defense with seven tackles and Bohannon and Clay Bridges each had six.
“Give Munford credit,” Kirby said. “You have to tip your hat. We’ve been on the good end of this the last four years and tonight we’re not. You have to give them credit. They outplayed us. They have a good football team and I knew that … We’ll go back to the drawing board, back to work. We’ve been here before. Not much, but we’ve been here before. We’ll get ready for our next game.”
Munford’s players and coaches celebrated quite a bit in the wake of a win that broke a four-game losing streak to Covington. However, after the celebration wound down, they were already talking about moving on.
“It is extra special, but at the same time, you just have to move on to the next one,” Bell said. “You stay focused. We won it, but we have a bigger job we have to finish.”
“I’m super proud of our seniors,” Calhoun said. “They had’t beaten Covington. It’s great to win a rivalry, but this is how football works. If we don’t win next week, this game doesn’t mean anything, and it’s the same thing with the next week, the next week and the next week. But we’ll take this one. Like I told Coach Kirby before the game, ‘I don’t care if we’re out here trying to pick up sticks, we’re trying to beat each other.’ There’s always going to be competition (with Covington), but we’re trying to get that third straight region title, also.”