Munford head football coach Nick Markle can’t read his team like a book.
“You can never get a read on them. When I think they are ready to play, they are not. When I don’t think they are ready to play they usually are. They keep me on my toes. They play hard for each other and that is all I can ask,” Markle said.
Senior running back Noah Robertson was ready to play. After a high ankle sprain in the second quarter of the first game, Robertson returned to the lineup, had a game-high 177 yards rushing and scored a touchdown during the Cougars’ 35-6 Region 8 5-A victory over Bolton on Friday at Bolton.
Quarterback Ja’Shawn Adell scored two touchdowns and rushed for 142 yards and Tobie Hurd and Lemerious Payne each added a touchdown as the Cougars, who had 442 yards rushing on 53 carries, won their fourth straight and improved to 2-0 in the region.
Bolton (0-5, 0-2) got a fourth quarter touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Ryan Bevel to Josh Alexander that was set up by Bevel’s 47-yard pass to Brandon Hargrove.
What hurt Robertson most was not being able to play before Friday.
“I am glad I am back. It is feeling good to play with all my teammates again. I am going to keep getting my ankle better so I can play the rest of the season. I know I have to make up for the games I missed. I can’t let my team down,” said Robertson, who has 4.5 speed in the 40.
If Robertson can get 5 yards he can get 50 “where my other backs if they get 5 yards they might get 8 to 15 yards,” Markle said. “He is a game-changer. He is a guy that wins the open field and he gives problems to defenses trying to keep up with his speed. Like the old saying goes, you can’t coach speed. He is still not healthy. He is probably two steps slow. If he had been 100 percent he would have housed a lot of those (long runs).”
Scoring a 19-yard touchdown that gave the Cougars a 6-0 lead on their first possession, Robertson also had a 27-yard run in the 74-yard drive.
Earlier, Adell, with 4.6 speed, ran 28 yards to the Bolton 19. Sophomore Jesse Savage, who was second-team all-region last season, kicked his first of five extra points.
“He is probably one of the best running backs in our region. We are lucky to have him back,” Markle said. “We are really looking forward to some big things out of him.”
With Robertson and Adell both being recruited by Ohio Valley Conference and NAIA schools, Adell is “solid,” Markle said.
Adell’s two touchdowns, on a 24-yard run in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead and a 48-yard run in the second, gave Munford a 21-0 halftime lead.
Running the triple option similar to Army and Navy, Adell leads the Cougars’ different look that is an advantage because it is hard to coach against, Markle said.
“Our offense is something that will wear you down on defense. What we do is ball control. We like to stay on the field as much as possible. We want to average 8-play drives. As a defense it wears you out and if you are like Bolton with only 35 players and kids going both ways, it comes back to you.”
Bolton head coach Brandon Usery describes the Cougars’ offense as “three yards and a cloud of dust. Munford does a great job of playing keep away with their offense. Whenever they get an offensive series they don’t really try and score quick, they try to milk the clock. They had a great plan.
“I give hats off to Coach Markle and their staff. It’s a great group of coaches. Their young men work really hard and played well and they executed a little better than we did. Nick is a great guy and he has done a lot of great things with that program since he took over. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. I know he is taking that Munford program nowhere but up from here on out.”
It was the second straight week that Usery has squared off against a coach he has previously been on staff with. Bolton played Houston and James Thomas on Sept. 7. Usery was offensive coordinator at Houston before coming to Bolton.
Adell said, “Bolton is a really good team and they are going to play us as hard as they got. We managed with the play calling from Coach Markle and executed the plays.”
The offensive line of Ryan Byram, Ryan Flanagan, Tyler Mayfield, Chris Ferrell, Logan Cramer, Cody Bryan, Max Lodrigue, Paul Kinneman was great, Adell said. “We can’t do anything without our O-Line. We’ve got to work hard and have to keep it going. We don’t plan on losing. We have a home game against Ridgeway (7 p.m. Friday) and we are going to protect our house.”
The Wildcats were successful in completions of long passes.
“Their long passes got us. We are a run-first team. If you pass it, oh well, we will live to play another down but you will not run the ball down our throats,” Adell said, citing excellent nights from Robertson, Bolton transfer Tobie Hurd (9 rushes for 60 yards and a touchdown), Lemerious Payne (one rush for 16 yards and a touchdown) and Jacoby Miguel.
Markle said that Adell, who also plays inside linebacker, “had a great game. He is trying to improve at quarterback.”
Adell engineered a 64-yard drive as Munford took a 28-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. Hurd ran 8 yards for the TD, and Savage kicked the PAT.
The Wildcats are improving weekly, Usery said.
“They never quit fighting no matter what the score is,” Usery said. “Those guys are all heart and character and there is no quit. It’s the little things we are trying to clear up. They need to realize they can’t take a play off. To win games in this region, it takes 48 minutes, not even 47.
“Ryan Bevel is the guy that gets the whole thing going. He is the spark plug. He tries to make all the plays that he can. He is the piston of the engine. Armonde Crenshaw (wide receiver) made some big plays as did Brandon Hargrove (wide receiver). We had some really good running, and the offensive line started opening up holes in the late first half and early second half. Jamieon Herron ran the ball. I thought there for a minute we were clicking on all cylinders. Once we get all 11 players looking in the same direction with the same goal, anything is possible.”
The Wildcats clicked on some drives before their touchdown.
In the second quarter, Bevel threw a 13-yard pass to Alexander to the Munford 39. Bevel then ran 17 yards for a first down at the Munford 22. Herron took them to the 15 before the drive stalled.
“We tried to run it as a jet-read play where the quarterback makes a read and he either gives it or keeps it. It was miscommunication and probably a bad call on my part. I take blame for that one,” Usery said of Bevel’s first-down attempt.
Bevel said, “I missed a slant but it was one of the ones we really needed and could have been a momentum changer.”
In the third quarter Herron had a 16-yard run to the Munford 42. An incomplete pass stopped the drive.
During the Wildcats’ fourth quarter scoring drive, they went 85 yards. On the third play Bevel’s 47-yard pass to Hargrove took the Wildcats from their 13 to the Munford 40.
“That was a big-change play,” Bevel said. “We knew we had them right then and there.” Running back Lamar Smith and Josh Simpson were keys in the drive.
Later, Bolton got to the 10 on a pass from Bevel to Hargrove and runs by Herron.
Bevel passed to Alexander for the 10-yard touchdown, and the Wildcats trailed 28-6.
“That touchdown catch was a blessing and the team gained momentum,” Alexander said of his first touchdown this season.
Usery called Alexander “a big-time playmaker. He is a junior. He is going to be a really big name as a senior. He is starting to assert himself as a dominant force on the offensive side and especially the defensive side.”
Bevel said, “As soon as we made that touchdown I thought we have to keep coming. They couldn’t stop our passing. I feel like I missed three passes that could have been touchdowns.”
Markle called it “exciting” to keep Bolton from scoring with the exception of the fourth quarter.
“Especially as dynamic as Ryan Bevel is. I know he is a little hobbled by an ankle injury but he is still a heck of an athlete. We knew if we kept him locked in the pocket we had a good chance of winning. I wish we had pitched a shutout but over the last three games we have given up only 13 points. I can’t complain.”
Munford’s last scoring drive covered 65 yards with runs by Hurd, who had a 17-yarder, Adell, Baker Osburn, Miguel and Payne, who scored on a fourth-down 18-yard run with 30 seconds left for a 34-6 lead. Savage, who Markle said has a bright kicking future that could lead to college, made it 35-6.
Getting inspiration from his parents, Archie and Thelma Bevel, Ryan Bevel kept a positive attitude despite trailing.
“They keep telling me to stay focused. The team inspires me. I know they are my family. I can’t give up on my family. My goals are to win out, go 5-0 and finish 5-5 and have a playoff spot.
“We have to stay positive to keep everybody up. We don’t have that many people to back us up but we have to keep fighting through. Everybody thinks we are just a nobody team and they are going to run through us. Even though we were down 28-0, we managed to get a touchdown. We fell short but we have to keep our heads up.”
The Wildcats, who host Southwind at 7 p.m. this Friday, got heads up play from Herron who was “our biggest standout on offense and defense,” Bevel said.
They also had contributors through offensive linemen Dionte Coleman, Camron Gibson, Josh Simpson, Devan Grandberry and Jeremiah Tucker.
Usery said that Gibson and Coleman played really well. “There were a couple of times when they got ready to throw the ball and we got back there and put some heat on the quarterback. He is very mobile. We were able to track them down. That is a testament of the work ethic and the capability of the young men that we have at Bolton High School.”
In his third season as head coach, Markle called his team “blue collar type guys. Nobody is very extravagant. We line up and run the ball.”
Markle was pleased with Payne and Miguel, whom he calls a “speed kid,” and said, “when he gets in on that fly sweep he is dynamic with a lot of agility in the open field.”
Defensively, the Cougars run a TCU 4-2-5 base. Osbourn is a senior leader at inside linebacker. Defensive lineman Jevon Bonner, a transfer from Millington, played well, Markle said. “He is a strong, explosive kid. Max (Lodrigue) played really well. He is a solid senior.”
Hurd also played defensive tackle, and Carson Roberson and Nate Mears are defensive ends.
“I thought our D-line played a heck of a game,” Markle said. “It’s hard to go those fourth downs and nines and we scored. Those are backbreakers and momentum killers for them. They are living on a high, then we break a 41-yarder for a touchdown. Those can kill you as a defense.”
The Cougars have a sophomore secondary.
“We are going to have to keep working on fundamentals. We lost the first game handily (to Covington). We are not letting one game dictate who we are. We have to stay positive. We are going to make mistakes but we bend, do not break. We had three turnovers on offense tonight and we can’t live with that. That is something that I harp on daily. We have to keep getting better on fundamentals.”
As they look at fundamentals, Bevel said the Wildcats can’t be drawn off by hard counts and will need to be more disciplined.
Pleased with his defense, Usery said, “There were a lot of times where it was third and short and our defense stepped up, especially our D-Line (Marquis Collier, Coleman, Simpson, Grandberry, Gibson and Tucker). They got big plays and we got the ball back. I am extremely proud of our boys, especially on defense. They played great. That is a couple of games in a row they have stepped up and we have gotten better.”
Usery and his staff want to continue to have a positive impact.
“We are all trying to be positive influences on these young men. Football is a perk of the job. We are trying to instill life lessons. I have learned that every day is going to be a different challenge. It is the most rewarding experience I have ever had in my life as a professional, and the relationships I have formed with these young men are the ones that I know I will carry for the rest of my life. I have learned there is no quit here. We are starting to get closer and closer to our ending goal.”