Football playoffs: Strickland's field goal lifts Munford into 4A semifinals
by Chris Brown
Special to The Star
Nov 22, 2013 | 2352 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HUNTSVILLE — Munford's season rested on the kicking leg of Brian Strickland, and he delivered Friday night.

His 32-yard field goal provided the winning points Munford over J.O. Johnson 10-8 in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at Milton Frank Stadium.

His game-winner game with 5:57 left and Munford trailing 8-7.

“It was nerve-racking,” said Strickland, whose kick came with a wind of 20 miles per hour at his back. “I thought on the bus on the way here, 'I might get to kick a game-winner tonight,' and that’s how it turned out.”

The win put Munford (12-1) into the semifinals for the first time since it finished state runner-up in 1992. The Lions will play at home Friday against Oneonta (12-1), which has finished state runner-up each of the previous two seasons.

Against the Jaguars, the Lions had to rely on their defense to shut the door on the victory.

After J.O. Johnson picked up 14 yards on a fourth-and-nine to keep a drive alive, the Jags picked up another first down as quarterback Danny Johnson found Devon Johnson for 11 yards. Four plays later, the Jaguars faced another fourth down, but this time they needed more yards than before.

They faced fourth-and-26, and Munford head coach Will Wagnon called a timeout to set up his defense.

His timeout paid off as the Lions’ defensive line broke through and forced an incomplete pass to seal the Munford victory.

“You can play bad on offense when you have a great defense,” Wagnon said. “They won the ball game for us hands down. Our defense was huge.”

Munford quarterback Monteo Garrett accounted for 117 of the Lions' 160 total yards on offense.

Throughout the game, the wind ranged from 10 to 25 miles per hour, while at the start of the fourth quarter, a heavy mist blanketed Milton Frank Stadium.

The weather helped limit a Munford offense that was averaging more than 33 points a game.

“If anything was my fault on why I didn’t make a good throw, it was my arm,” Garrett said. “I don’t care about the wind. I don’t believe in wind or rain. I take all the blame.”

Despite the rough condition, Garrett found Christopher Chapman for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Lions ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.

J.O. Johnson answered back as Danny Johnson found Devon Johnson on a slant route. Johnson broke a tackle, and ran into the end zone from 36 yards out. The Jaguars went for the 2-point conversion, and got into the end zone with Danny Johnson pitching it to Desmond Johnson on a speed-option.

The teams traded punts for the remainder of the first half and the third quarter.

The turning point happened when J.O. Johnson punted into the wind with 7:29 left in the game. The ball traveled 20 yards, and without hesitation Cameron Turner picked up the ball as returned it to the Jaguar 2, which set up Strickland’s field goal.

“We got a big win tonight going on the road to J.O. Johnson. Thank goodness for two of our play-makers Cameron Thomas and field goal kicker Brian Strickland," Garrett said. “Without them, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Next comes the showdown with Oneonta, with a chance to make the state finals on the line. Minutes after beating J.O. Johnson, however, Wagnon wasn't ready to worry about the next game.

“I don’t know yet. We are going to enjoy this tonight, and we’ll probably wait until tomorrow to start worrying about them,” he said.

Garrett is already looking toward practice: “They’re a very good football team. We have to come in and have a good week of practice, and do everything we are supposed to do.”

For a moment or two, at least, Wagnon enjoyed the victory.

“This is a great community, and we have the greatest bunch of players. I mean not just players, but they’re great people," Wagnon said. “I love that I get another week to be with this football team, and hopefully we can get another one.”
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