The Munford Lions open the season against the fourth-ranked team in Class 5A, Central of Clay County, tonight at Munford Stadium at 7 p.m. Last season, many of Munford’s players said their 30-14 loss in week five was the pivotal point in their season. Coach Will Wagnon said the returning players want to prove that they are better than what they showed last season.

“I think that was the turning point of our season last year, when we went down there and we got checked a little bit,” Wagnon said. “We had to understand that we are not where we need to be yet. That game last year was probably one of our keys to a successful season and going to the semifinals. They want to come out and prove that we didn’t play well and they are not that much better than us. Our kids want to prove that, but we can’t worry as much about them as we worry about ourselves. We have a game plan, we have our own schemes. If we execute what we do well, the rest will take care of itself.”

This season, Central of Clay County is the start of a tough schedule for the Lions. Munford’s schedule features traditional powerhouses in Leeds and Handley. The Lions will also face a tough Childersburg team that went to the second round of the playoffs, plus Cleburne County, Dadeville and Lincoln.

“It is a tough opener, especially a week early than usual,” Munford fifth-year head coach Wagnon said. “They have become one of our rivals, I think because we are close. It is a new school and we have played them since they opened. The community gets excited, and I think their community gets excited about it too. It is a tough opener this early. We scheduled them for a reason, because we want stiff competition to help us later on in the season.”

Blake Haynie will lead the Lions into battle tonight. Wagnon has been pleased with the progression that his senior quarterback has made this fall. Haynie caught the attention of the coaches and the fans with his performance in their spring game in May at Jacksonville State. He threw for 199 yards, including touchdown passes of 60 and 48 yards to C.J. Chapman. He also rushed for 48 yards.

Chapman had a huge junior season, as he had over 800 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

Haynie will also have a stable of talented backs to turn around and give the ball to, in Charles Smith, Rocky Smith and QT Elston.

“He has worked really hard to get better every day, and he has,” Wagnon said. “We are excited where he’s at, and hopefully he will prove it on the field. We’ve had a good camp, we have worked really hard. It has not been really hot until this week. We are trying to adjust to that, and hopefully everything will work out and we play to the level we should be playing.”

Last season, Central Clay went 10-3 and made it to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Volunteers’ defense was their calling card last season, as they held 12 of their 13 opponents to scoring 18 points or less.

“They are very well coached,” Wagnon said. “Coach (Kris) Herron does a great job. He tries to keep things very simple, so they can really react and not have to think and play. They got that Clay County mentality, when they walk out on the field they feel like they are supposed to win every game. That helps them with a lot of their successes is their mentality. We have to go out with basically the same mentality. We expect to win and they expect to win. The one that executes the best and performs the best will.”

Wagnon said winning the battle in the trenches is going to be imperative if the Lions are going to start out the season 1-0.

“I think we have to play well up front,” Wagnon said. “We replaced four offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, in a three-man front. I think we can be better than last year, but they are newcomers. So how they play is going to be key. I think the kicking game is going to be important, and it may be a strength for us this year.”

Central of Clay County leads the series 2-0.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Munford Stadium.

Contact LaVonte Young at