Heading into Friday night's regular season finale at Munford, Brighton head coach Robin Jacobs knew stopping Munford quarterback Ja'Shawn Adell was a necessity.
"The quarterback tonight obviously did well," Jacobs said following his team's 27-21 loss. "We knew we had to stop him and we didn't do that. He got us at the end."
Adell rushed for 232 yards on 21 carries (a whopping 11 yards per carry average) and scored all four of the Cougars' touchdowns.
The win propelled Munford (6-4) into the Class 5A state playoffs where it will play at Henry County on Friday in the first round. Brighton, which would have made the playoffs with a win and kept Munford out, saw its season end at 3-7.
"It feels great," said Adell when asked how it feels making the playoffs. "It feels like a new life after the way we started the season."
Adell had three runs for more than 30 yards, including touchdown runs of 66 and 55 yards.
His 66-yarder came with 3:41 left in the first quarter and put the Cougars ahead 13-0.
Brighton's offense got going early in the second quarter when Nick Johnson found Solomon Davis for a four-yard TD pass on fourth and goal. The TD capped off a 13-play drive and made the score 13-7.
Adell's 55-yard TD came on Munford's first possession of the second half and pushed the lead to 20-7.
Following a Brighton punt, Munford took advantage of two unsporstmanlike penalties and went ahead 27-7 late in third quarter on a five-yard run by Adell.
Brighton's next possession ended when Jesse Savage intercepted a pass at the end of the third quarter and the Cardinals appeared to be done.
Andrew Brooks scored on a 12-yard run with 7:46 left in the game. With 1:53 left, Johnson, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 159 yards, hit Keionte' Newson (eight catches, 98 yards) on a 40-yarder and then found Davis in the end zone to trim the lead to 27-21.
The ensuing onside kick bounced around for a while before Munford's Tobie Hurd recovered, effectively ending the game.
"Heart, heart," Adell said after the game. "We wanted it more than they did. It's simple."
"We battled through adversity, we battled through injury and they never gave up," Munford head coach Nick Markle said. "We're not the most talented bunch in the world, but it's hard to outwork us. We're going to give you 48 minutes of everything we've got. I can't ask for anything else from my guys ... I love these guys, they play hard."
Munford only attempted three passes in the game and Brighton played the run all game with as many as nine players within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
"Our plan was to run the ball right at them and see if they could stop us," Markle said. "We had some hiccups at times, but when we're firing on all cylinders everything looks good."
It was a tough season for Brighton, which advanced to the state semifinals a season ago.
"We knew when we started this year it was going to be a challenge," Jacobs said. "I'm proud of our kids. They played hard and got better. I told them there are going to be harder things in their life than losing a football game. I'm proud of them for fighting back. It was a great game ... We'll start working on next year Tuesday. We'll let that empty feeling in their stomach burn for next year. We have a lot of guys coming back. We're excited about it already."
Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email email@example.com.