MUNFORD — Munford didn’t open Class 5A, Region 5 play against defending state champion Clay Central with the intensity head coach Michael Easley wanted, but a challenge and a little honesty at halftime turned the game around for the Lions.
Problem was, Clay Central was almost perfect in the first half, scoring on all five of its drives before halftime en route to a 34-12 victory.
“We just made too many mistakes the first half,” Easley said. “I don't think we played hard in the first half.”
Munford tried to open up the run game on its first possession, but Clay Central’s defensive line had other plans and managed to quickly get into the backfield and stop the run before it got started.
It was a different story for the Volunteers, however, who totaled 233 offensive yards in the first half, with 117 coming off of rushes.
“I was pleased with the first half,” Volunteer head coach Danny Horn said. “We didn’t have any penalties and we executed very well.”
The second half was a different story, with the Lions outscoring the Volunteers 12-0.
“I challenged them, but I was honest with them,” Easley said. “I pointed out some lack of effort in some areas and some things as a team that we needed to change. … I think they responded very well.”
The Volunteers, who received the ball to start the third quarter, were forced to punt after three downs. Taariq Johnson then broke through Clay Central’s defensive line en route to a 45-yard run that jump-started the Lions’ offense.
Johnson was angered by the Lions’ poor first half, and finding that hole helped him release some of the anger.
For Easley, in the third quarter, he saw his team working the way it was supposed to.
“We played with pace,” Easley said. “We’re supposed to be an uptempo offense … That was the best pace we’ve had all season.”
What to know
— J Tuck led Munford in rushing with 70 yards, including a 7-yard TD.
— Johnson ran for 67 yards.
— Munford’s Sylvester Smith scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run late and finished with 41 yards rushing.
— Clay Central’s Quentin Knight scored three of the Volunteers’ first-half touchdowns and ran for 118 yards.
— Volunteer quarterback Philip Ogles threw for a touchdown and ran for one, too. He had 110 passing yards.
— Clay Central’s Javon Wood caught an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Clay Central’s Horn thinks the Lions might be the team to beat before season’s end. “Munford has a really good team,” Horn said. “I think they’re gonna make some noise in the region before it’s over with.”
Munford (1-2, 0-1) travels to region foe Center Point, while Clay Central (2-0, 1-0) returns home to host Springville. Both games are set for Friday.