The year that was 2022 certainly was not without its moments. There were multiple state champs crowned and some strong performances by several Tipton County teams.
No. 1 Munford football goes 10-0 for first time
The Munford Cougars did not go as far in the playoffs as they would have liked. They lost in the second round to Springfield.
Nevertheless, the 2022 Cougars will be remembered for one thing: They became the first Munford football team to finish the regular season undefeated, and that accomplishment lands them atop the list of the top 10 Tipton County sports stories of the year.
“It’s just a super accomplishment,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said moments after his team beat Memphis Central 42-28 in the regular season finale to finish 10-0. “I mean, I never thought it would happen in my coaching career.”
“It’s just unbelievable,” Munford junior quarterback Jordan Bell said after the student section stormed the field in celebration. “We worked hard for it all year. You have to live this moment. You don’t get this moment every year.”
The Week 10 win, which clinched Munford’s third straight outright Region 8-5A title, looked like it might be a no doubter when the Cougars jumped out to a 21-0 lead. Two highlight-reel-worthy runs by Braxton Sharp – a 77-yarder and an 88-yarder – were followed by a 39-yard TD run by Bell to put the Cougars up by three touchdowns with 9:12 left in the second quarter.
Central made a game of it, but Munford finished strong to make history. The season also included a season-opening win over Covington, which broke a four-year losing streak to its county rival.
“All I can say is heart. This is a team, a family,” said running back Braxton Sharp, who transferred from Brighton to Munford during the offseason. “It feels great. I tell you, a year ago from today, I never thought I would be right here today.”
No. 2 Covington baseball makes state title game again
There may have been some people wondering how the Covington baseball program would fare moving up in classification from 2A to 3A. Turns out the Chargers are one of the best programs in the state regardless of classification.
The Chargers defeated Munford to win the district title, won a sectional game and moved into the state tournament for the 13th time. They have made it there every year since 2017.
Covington beat Montgomery Central, Tennessee and Tullahoma to make the state title game. Upperman beat them 2-0 in the championship game. However, if anybody had any doubt about Covington baseball’s place among the state’s elite, that was erased in 2022.
No. 3 Covington football advances to state semifinals
As crazy as it me seem, considering the prolific history of the Covington High School football program, there were some doubters when the Chargers dropped their season opener to Munford.
Well, the Chargers let their play do the talking the rest of the way in a 2022 season that culminated with yet another appearance in the state semfinals.
Covington ended up with three losses, but they were against two teams (Munford and Haywood) in higher classifications that went 10-0 in the regular season and against another (East Nashville) that played in the state title game.
Any other county team that made the state semifinals would have surely been number one on this list, but Covington’s expectations are so high it landed third in 2022.
Head coach J.R. Kirby summed up the 2022 season very well after the semfinal loss.
“I just can’t say nothing else about the seniors, this group, as they are a special group and they have got a future ahead of them. I hate to see them go.”
No. 4 Brighton grad Dalton Rushing drafted by Los Angeles Dodgers
The list of baseball players from Tipton County who have been drafted is not long.
It got a little longer last July during the MLB draft.
Live on ESPN, former baseball great Steve Sax announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers were selecting 2019 Brighton High School graduate Dalton Rushing with the 40th pick of the Major League Baseball draft.
Rushing, who watched the draft in the baseball facility at the University of Louisville, which he helped lead to the College World Series this past season, put his head in his hands when the announcement was made before hugging family members and coaches.
Of the 12 local players who have been drafted, only Covington’s Tucker Ashford, who was drafted second overall in 1974 and went on to play in the majors, was picked higher than Rushing.
The last player from a Tipton County high school to be drafted was Colton Hathcock, a 2014 Brighton graduate who was drafted 446th in 2017. Other locals who have been drafted are Joe Melton of Brighton, Jon Ashford, Tim Corder, Tony Marbry, Jeff McCollum and Rusty Gay of Covington and Lendon Willis, Cody Overbeck, Aaron Fultz and Jeff Fayne of Munford.
“As soon as I got that call I knew it was a great fit,” Rushing said. “Louisville players do great in the Dodgers’ organization. I’m excited to be going.”
No. 5 Munford baseball returns to state tournament
The Cougars’ path to Murfreesboro was pretty dramatic.
Munford scored a run in the top of the seventh in the sectionals vs. Millington at USA Stadium in a 3-2 win. Owen Geiger struck out nine and scattered seven hits over seven innings to pick up the win.
It was Munford’s first appearance at state since 2017 and 10th overall.
The Cougars went two and out in Murfreesboro, but with several key players returning the Cougars are certainly a threat to get back to state in 2023.
No. 6 Brighton softball returns to state
The Lady Cardinals cruised through the region and sectionals to get back to Murfreesboro for the first time since 2017.
They routed Obion County 10-2 and took out Dyer County 3-1 on to take the region title. The sectional game vs. Bolton was not competitive as Brighton scored 15 runs in the first inning and six more in the second to end the game. Brie Howard and Adin Shelton each homered for the Lady Cards and Katelyn Jones pitched a three-inning no-hitter.
Brighton went two and out at state, but it was a season to remember for sure.
No. 7 County high schools get turf fields
There was some pushback when the board approved the $3.8 million project last year to install turf at the three county high schools. Facebook posters expressed concern about injuries on turf and the cost. The funding came from the school system’s fund balance and not federal relief funds, which was incorrectly reported by The Leader.
In the end, the turf got rave reviews from everyone involved.
“Huge,” Covington coach J.R. Kirby said when asked about how big of a deal the new turf field is. “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but in the past I would cut the grass at midnight or 2 or 3 in the morning sometimes when it was going to rain.”
“It’s not 1987 Three Rivers Stadium,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said, referring to the old-style turf used in a lot of pro stadiums in the 80s and 90s. “People talk about it all time. It’s not the indoor/outdoor carpet that’s on your mamaw’s back porch. You can lay and sleep on this stuff. It’s not your grandpa’s old Astro turf.”
No. 8 Christian Perez wins state decathlon
It was quite a season for the Munford High School track program.
On May 19 and 20 in Brentwood, senior Christian Perez became the first Munford track athlete to take first at a state meet when he won the decathlon. His teammate, junior Jace Hodgin, finished second.
A week later at the sectional meet nearly 20 Cougars and Lady Cougars qualified for the Spring Fling state meet,
The Lady Cougars started the Sectional Meet off with a 1, 2, 3 finish in the pentathlon. By the time running events began at noon on Saturday, the Lady Cougars had picked up 92 points and held a commanding lead. Things only got better from there as the 4×800 relay team took 1st and set a new school record doing it. The Lady Cougars scored multiple athletes in nearly every individual event. By night’s end they had piled up 181 points, nearly doubling up the second place Ripley Tigers, on their way to securing the Sectional Championship, a first for the girls’ track program.
The boys’ team team also won the sectional meet and finished second at the state meet.
No. 9 Brighton football coach comes, then goes
The Morgan Cruce era at Brighton started with a bang (a 56-26 season-opening win at St. Benedict), had some struggles midway through (a rash of injuries and a four-game losing streak) and ultimately yielded a 3-7 record.
It ended after 12 months when he resigned earlier this month.
Cruce said he is leaving to take a job as the running backs coach at the University of North Alabama, a Division I school in Florence.
“For five or six years, maybe up to 10, I’ve had an ambition and dream of coaching Division I football,” Cruce after breaking the news to his players. “It seemed like the right time, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
No. 10 Ja Morant pays a visit to Munford
Some serious star power showed up in the Munford High School gym last July.
Ja Morant, the all-star guard for the Memphis Grizzlies and one of the most popular basketball players in the world, made an appearance at the Stark Skills Academy Camp.
And he put on a show.
In addition to showing his dunking ability with a reverse jam, he led the kids in a baseline-to-baseline march/dance.
After a professional career that included time with Minnesota Timberwolves summer league team, former Munford and Brighton High basketball standout Jonathan Stark decided to start up a basketball camp because he wanted to give back to his community by teaching kids the game of basketball.
“Munford is a very small town, it doesn’t get talked about a lot and I want to be able to impact and let kids know that they can do it, no matter what kind of situation you’re in,” Stark said. “No matter where you come from, how small the town is, you can do it if you just work hard.”