By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With friends and family surrounding the 2021 Munford Cougars in the north end zone, under the shadow of the large block “M” senior running back Auvic White kept saying, “It’s been fun.”
Those words were appropriate for White moments after a 56-27 defeat to the Henry County Patriots in the Second Round of the Class 5A playoffs. White’s career as a Cougar player was officially over but the Munford leader knew the season was special because of nine wins, undefeated Region 8-5A record, M&M Bowl victory and countless fun memories.
“What’s going through my mind is what I told my teammates last week,” White said, “’No matter the outcome, just continue to follow after God. He has alliterative motives behind what He does. And you might now understand it until later.’”
White and the Cougars knew despite the 6-5 record for Henry County, the Patriots would present a tough challenge.
“I was thinking about how Munford hasn’t beaten Henry County in like 15 years,” White said. “I wanted to beat them once to break that streak.”
The 2021 matchup wouldn’t be the time to end the streak. The Patriots got a good break to start the game when the kickoff hit a Munford player in the chin and bounced into the arms of a Henry County player.
The Patriots went ahead 7-0 marching the ball down the short field. Cole Townsend capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run at the 6:47 mark.
Henry County (7-5) went ahead 14-0 when Ryan Damron threw a screen pass for a 30-yard touchdown. Munford (9-3) got on the scoreboard before the first quarter concluded when quarterback Jordan Bell hit receiver Icarius Hodgin for a 25-yard touchdown TD to make the score 14-7.
The Patriots had an answer to start the second quarter when Townsend struck again. About 5 seconds into the period, Townsend crossed the goal line for a 3-yard TD to make the tally 21-7.
The Cougars of Head Coach Slade Calhoun kept fighting, heading back down the field for a touchdown. The combo of Bell to Hodgin worked again this time from 14 yards out to make the score 21-14.
But the Patriots were in the middle of scoring a touchdown on their first eight positions. Townsend exploded for a 33-yard touchdown run to make the score 28-14. Right before halftime Henry County made it 35-14 when Hudson Cepparulo caught a 38-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots received the second half kickoff and didn’t take long to score. Townsend blasted through a hole created by his massive offensive line for an 84-yard touchdown run to make the score 42-14.
“I just didn’t have a very good plan on defense,” Calhoun acknowledged. “I didn’t have us ready. We just got mashed. We tried to do some stuff to negate their size advantage. They’ve got a left tackle who has an offer from everybody in America.
“I just didn’t do a very good job,” he continued. “We have to figure something out. They were much more physical than us. I thought our offense played well enough to win. I just didn’t have us ready on defense.”
Munford’s offense scored ahead to make the score 42-20 with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter. Hunter Gill, who made a couple of clutch catches to keep drives alive, caught a 5-yard TD from Bell.
Just when the Cougars tried to gain some momentum, Henry County’s Morgan Barrick had the silencer. Barrick popped loose for a 40-yard touchdown run to make the score 49-20.
Then to close out the third period, Barrick reached paydirt again with a 1-yard TD run making the score 56-20.
The final touchdown of the night, fittingly, came courtesy of White. The Munford senior standout scored his final TD in his home Munford Football Stadium from 3 yards out.
“I don’t even know how to replace those guys (my seniors),” Calhoun said. “Ben Cerniglia, Auvic White, Icarius Hodgin, Hunter Gill. Not only are they super players, but they’re super dedicated. I don’t know if they ever missed a practice.
“But they’re super dudes, awesome kids to be around,” he continued. “The fact that they’re Region champs, back-to-back, can’t anyone ever that away from them. Undefeated Region champions, nobody can ever take that away from them. Everybody is going to be sad like this except for one team. And that’s just the way it goes.”
Speaking for his fellow seniors, White said football is a great platform to teach about life and build a bond with Christ.
“I am so proud of them, especially all the adversity we’ve gone through,” he said. “I told them, ‘There are certain things only God can teach you not through advice but through adversity. I am just proud of these guys that we pushed through no matter what we went through. We left with a fight. We did not go down easily.
“I’m hoping we go out and handle real life pretty well,” White concluded. “Although the season is over that doesn’t mean I am down praying for them.”