As a result, Oneonta advanced to next week’s Class 4A championship game in Tuscaloosa with a 35-21 win.
Munford finished 12-2 in Will Wagnon’s fourth season as coach of the Lions. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that had its heart set on the school’s first football state title. Wagnon spent a long time in the dressing room going from player to player with hugs and words of encouragement.
“They just made more plays than we did. I think that’s what it boils down to,” Wagnon said later. “We made a lot of plays. They made a lot of plays. They just made a couple more.”
Veteran Oneonta coach Don Jacobs, who has now led the Redskins to three straight 4A state championship games, was highly complimentary of Munford.
“They’ve got a tremendous team,” Jacobs said. “They’re scary speed-wise. We knew they were going to move the football a little bit. We are just fortunate to get out of here with a victory.”
Munford trailed 21-14 at halftime. Oneonta’s Terrell McDaniel ended the opening possession of the second half with an interception on the second snap. Munford’s defense, led by end Earl Moss and linebacker Austin Stephens, forced a three-and-out and the punt was downed at the Munford 20-yard line.
The ensuing eight-play drive started with a 5-yard loss on first down that soon had the Lions facing third-and-13. Senior quarterback Monteo Garrett connected with classmate Tavon Lawson for 22 yards and a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, it was third-and-10. Garrett went deep to Lawson again, this time for a 32-yard gain. Two plays and an illegal procedure penalty later, Munford faced third-and-11 at the Oneonta 30. Garrett again threw to Lawson, who slipped an arm tackle at the 20 and scored standing up.
The third of three consecutive extra points by Brian Strickland made it 21-21 with 6:06 still to play in the third quarter. The packed house on the home side of the field rose as one to urge the Lions on.
Two plays later, all the momentum Munford had gained evaporated. Oneonta quarterback Ko Powell faked a screen pass then threw long to wide receiver Trevor Smith, alone along the visitors’ sideline. The play, a screen take-off in the Oneonta playbook, was good for a 54-yard touchdown and the Redskins never trailed again.
“We had set that play up in the first half. … We felt like we had it and we called it and it’s a touchdown,” Jacobs said. “It’s nip-and-tuck all night long. I thought our kids played a great game.”
Three first downs took Munford from its 33 to the Oneonta 24 but the drive stalled on downs at the visitors’ 21 with 1:03 to play in the third. On the second play of the fourth quarter, a 14-yard Powell to Brock Latta pass capped a five-play drive that required less than two minutes of clock time. The fifth of five straight extra points by Tyler Short gave the Redskins a 35-21 lead with 11:16 to play, their first two-touchdown advantage of the night.
The Lions drove again, putting together three first downs to reach the Oneonta 21. At that point, Garrett was sacked for a 9-yard loss and his second down pass toward C.J. Chapman was intercepted by Oneonta’s Smith.
“That sack killed us on that drive and kind of put us in a hole,” Wagnon said.
“We got the interception that kept them out of the end zone when it was 35-21 and them driving,” said Jacobs. “The interception was huge.”
Oneonta took over with 8:26 to play and ran the ball 14 consecutive times. The fifteenth play was an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Munford 21 with 22 seconds to go.
Oneonta opened the game with the ball and scored quickly on a 51-yard run by Powell. On Munford’s second possession, Garrett avoided a blitz and threw deep to Chapman for a one-play, 47-yard scoring drive.
On the first play of the second quarter, Oneonta scored on a 15-yard screen pass from Powell to Keaton Jones. With 5:36 to go before halftime, Garrett capped an 81-yard drive with a 6-yard pass to Moss.
It took the Redskins less than four minutes to regain the lead. Powell passed to Latta for 25 yards then hit Smith for 40 yards before Avery Reid scored on a 1-yard run.
“We had a very good season. I’m excited about how far we went, 12 wins. It was a great year,” Wagnon said. “I’m sad that it’s come to an end because I really enjoyed coaching that bunch of kids.”