The prevailing thought heading into Friday night's season opener between Munford and Covington was that last year's Charger blowout win was an aberration in a series that has been very competitive the last five seasons.
Maybe it wasn't.
Friday's game played out very similarly to the one played 371 days previously. The Chargers hit the ground running and the defense completely suffocated Munford in a 35-0 blowout.
Covington scored touchdowns on its first five possessions of the game (just like last year) and the eventual outcome of this one was obvious very early to anyone paying attention in the overflow crowd at Munford.
The Cougars managed just 32 yards of offense (negative five rushing) and just one first down, and it came when Covington jumped offsides on a fourth and one midway through the second quarter. Covington was already leading 28-0 at this point.
Andrew Scott, who had committed the penalty, scooped up a Munford fumble on the very next play to end any chance the Cougars may have had to build some momentum. A 40-yard fumble return by Scott for a TD was negated by a penalty, but Marcus Hayes scored on a 40-yard run three plays later to push the lead to 35-0.
"At the end of the day, hats off to Covington," Munford coach Nick Markle said. "They wanted it more and played hard. They hit us in the mouth and basically gave us a dose of our own medicine. I don't have anything to say other than they played the better game tonight in all aspects of the game, special teams, offense, defense."
Markle noted that Covington ran its traditional wing-T offense despite not using it very much in the preseason and said it was a surprise to his defense. Markle called a timeout during Covington's second possession, but it still ended with a seven-yard TD run by Fayne.
"That's 100 percent true," Covington coach J.R. Kirby said when asked if the plan was to spring the wing-T on Munford. "That was the game plan the whole time. We didn't want to show our cards. We knew they probably wouldn't be ready for it, so we had that in our back pocket."
Hayes, who missed much of the preseason with an injury, returned to the lineup with a bang. He broke a 71-yard TD run on Covington's third play from scrimmage and finished with 123 yards on just seven carries. Fayne added 61 rushing yards and two TDs and Jamrion Dowell ran for 43 as the Chargers racked up 275 on the ground. Covington had just three possessions in the second half with the clock running via the 35-point mercy rule.
"It was a great feeling," Hayes said after the game. "We just did our thing. Our defense played outstanding."
Covington quarterback Carson Ruffin started his first varsity game Friday night. He was replacing Brock Lomax, who graduated last year after starting every game of his four-year career while becoming the program's all-time leading passer. He completed 2 of 5 passes for 65 yards and ran for an 18-yard TD.
"He grew up tonight and we needed him to," Kirby said.
Said Ruffin: "I was nervous at the beginning, but after the first play I was ready to go ... Our defense, they're top notch. They get on and off the field real quick and get us the ball."
Kirby played the role of the Munford quarterback during practice this week to prepare his defense to play against Munford's option attack. He said he was beat up and tired but still had a smile on his face after beating Munford.
"That's a tough offense to stop," Kirby said. "I thought our kids played extremely hard and executed the game plan. That's two years in a row our defense has done about as well as you can against them."