Redemption can be boosted by outside motivation.
Munford Head Coach Nick Markle knew his senior leader Carson Roberson needed an extra push after the 35-0 season-opening loss to rival Covington. Roberson didn't have much time to soak in defeat with another familiar foe on the slate in the Millington Trojans.

“I challenged Carson Roberson, one of our defensive captains,” Markle said. “He had probably the worst game of his career last week against Covington. I've just been on him about stepping up to the bar, to the challenge ... He answered the bell today. He had a big night for us. (Jevon) Bonner had a big night. So many players stepped up and had a big night, Michael Dowell, we've all played as a unit.”

Munford's bounce back on defense sparked the Cougars to a 12-7 victory over the rival Trojans Friday at Mooney Bosewell Field. 

The final tally illustrates a defensive battle, but those in attendance Friday night know several parts of the 2019 M&M Bowl made it a sloppy affair. 

“Offensively we were horrible, absolutely horrible,” Millington head coach Chris Michael acknowledged. “We ran three plays and turned it over in our territory three times. It was awful. Coach did a good job over there. He played some small defensive linemen. They did a lot of stunting, moved around ... They pretty much speed rushed us whenever we were in a passing situation ... They ran around us. We were slow. We couldn't stay on our blocks. We were just awful. There wasn't anything good you could say about that (performance). We didn't call plays very well. We jumped offsides. Our receivers are inexperienced and it's killing us.”

Millington lacks in experience on the perimeter, but Munford's main strength on defense was on the line. Roberson was a headache for the Trojan offensive linemen and quarterback Tommy Clifton all night. 

The Trojans' (1-1) offensive woes started on the first play from scrimmage.

Millington had a fumble when the Cougars stripped the ball away from Clifton. Millington returned the favor, ending Munford's first offensive possession with a fumble. The Trojan's second play on offense was another run ending in the Trojans coughing up the ball to the Cougars. 

After a Munford missed field goal, the Trojans decided to go to the air on offense. The third play from scrimmage resulted in an interception by Munford's Treveon Hawkins. 

The next portion of the game was a defensive struggle with both teams punting the ball. Then the Cougars (1-1) finally broke loose at the eight-minute mark of the second quarter with sophomore Auvic White taking a trap handoff 74 yards to the house.

“Defensively I thought we executed the game plan,” Michael said. “Last year we did not at all. Pretty much had the same game plan this year. Gave up a 70-yard touchdown run. We had to stay down on our keys all night long. When we didn't they had a positive run. We gave up one on a missed assignment on a fullback dive.” 

The White touchdown gave Munford a 6-0 lead heading into halftime. After the second half began with a series of punts, Munford marched down the field behind quarterback Jaxon O'Neal. 

O'Neal had a big run and later located Jesse Savage with a pass to the three-yard line. Moments later White crossed the goal line to make the score 12-0 with one second left in the third. 

Millington's offense was still limited in the fourth quarter. Despite several Cougar penalties, the Trojans couldn't capitalize offensively. 

The Trojans finally got on the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter when Clifton hit receiver Adrian Dowell on a slant for a 24-yard TD. The Cougar defense, led by the line, closed out the Trojans to earn the M&M Bowl victory.

“It's an everyday grind,” Markle said. “We're banged up right now. It's trying to pull some of these young guys up and say, 'You're one snap away from being a player, a starter for us.' We've just got to keep grinding everyday. We're going to come back Monday morning and get after it again ... We've got Craigmont coming to the house this week. They've got some speed out there ... Defensively, except for a mental lapse down there, we played well tonight. Our defense redeemed itself from last week. Our offense, we're still trying to get into our midseason form. But it's like I tell them, we don't want to be peaking right now. We want to be peaking in Week 7, Week 8 heading into the playoffs.”

Michael and the Trojans have MLK-Prep on the schedule this Friday. He said his team will have another long night if the offensive line doesn't get back to basics and play with an edge.

“We've got to come off the ball,” he concluded. “We didn't play that well against Liberty. We went back and watched the film, we blocked horribly. We didn't block well. We've got to get better.” 

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email​