The year 2022 was certainly not without its moments. Multiple state championships were won and several Tipton County teams had strong performances.
Football no. 1 Munford goes 10-0 for the first time
The Munford Cougars didn’t go as far in the playoffs as they would have liked. They lost in the second round to Springfield.
However, the 2022 Cougars will be remembered for one thing: They became the first Munford football team to finish the regular season undefeated, an accomplishment that landed them at the top of Tipton County’s top 10 sports stories of the year.
“It’s just a super accomplishment,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said moments after his team beat Memphis Central 42-28 in the regular-season finale to finish 10-0. “I mean, I never thought that would happen in my coaching career.”
“It’s just unbelievable,” Munford junior guard Jordan Bell said after the student section stormed the field in celebration. “We worked hard for it all year. You have to live this moment. You don’t get this moment every year.”
The Week 10 win, which gave Munford its third straight Region 8-5A title, looked like it might be beyond doubt when the Cougars jumped out to a 21-0 lead. Two highlight-reel runs by Braxton Sharp – 77 yards and 88 yards – were followed by a 39-yard TD run by Bell to put the Cougars within three touchdowns with 9:12 left in the second quarter.
Central made a play, but Munford finished strong and made history. The season also included a season-opening win over Covington, which snapped a four-year losing streak to its district rival.
“All I can say is heart. This is a team, a family,” said running back Braxton Sharp, who transferred from Brighton to Munford during the offseason. “It feels great. I’m telling you, a year ago today, I never thought I’d be here today.”
No. 2 Covington baseball is playing for a state title again
Some people may have wondered how the Covington baseball program would move up in classification from 2A to 3A. The Chargers turned out to be one of the top programs in the state regardless of classification.
The Chargers beat Munford to win the district title, win the sectional game and advance to the state tournament for the 13th time. They have made it there every year since 2017.
Covington defeated Montgomery Central, Tennessee and Tullahoma to reach the state title. Upperman beat them 2-0 in the championship game. However, if anyone doubted Covington baseball’s place among the nation’s elite, it was erased in 2022.
No. 3 Covington football advances to state semifinals
As crazy as it seems to me, given the prolific history of the Covington High School football program, there were some doubters when the Chargers dropped their inaugural season to Munford.
Well, the Chargers let their play do the talking the rest of the way in the 2022 season culminating in another state semifinal appearance.
Covington finished with three losses, but they came against two teams in higher classifications (Munford and Haywood) that went 10-0 in the regular season and another (East Nashville) that played in the state title game.
Any other county team that made it to the state semifinals would surely be number one on this list, but Covington’s expectations are so high that it landed in 2022 at number three.
Head coach JR Kirby summed up the 2022 season very well after the semifinal loss.
“I simply cannot say anything else about the seniors, this group, because they are a special group and have a future ahead of them. I hate to see them go.”
No. 4. Brighton City Dalton Rushing was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers
The list of Tipton County baseball players who have been selected is not long.
He extended himself a bit last July during the MLB draft.
Live on ESPN, former baseball great Steve Sax announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers are selecting 2019 Brighton High graduate Dalton Rushing with the 40th pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Rushing, who watched the draft inside the baseball hall at the University of Louisville, which he helped lead to the College World Series last season, put his head in his hands when the announcement was made before hugging family members and coaches.
Of the 12 local players who were drafted, only Covington’s Tucker Ashford, who was drafted second overall in 1974 and went on to play in the majors, was selected more than Rushing.
The last player from Tipton County High to be drafted was Colton Hathcock, a 2014 Brighton graduate who was drafted 446 in 2017. Other locals to be drafted include Brighton’s Joe Melton, Jon Ashford, Tim Corder, Tony Marbry, Jeff McCollum and Rusty Gay of Covington and Lendon Willis, Cody Overbeck, Aaron Fultz and Jeff Fayne of Munford.
“As soon as I got that call, I knew it was a great fit,” Rushing said. “The Louisville players are doing great in the Dodgers organization. I’m excited to go.”
No. 5 Munford baseball returns to the state tournament
The Cougars’ road trip to Murfreesboro was pretty dramatic.
Munford scored a run in the top of the seventh in the sectional against Millington at USA Stadium in a 3-2 victory. Owen Geiger struck out nine and scattered seven hits over seven innings to pick up the win.
It was Munford’s first state championship appearance since 2017 and tenth overall.
The Cougars have gone to Murfreesboro twice, but with several key players returning, the Cougars are certainly a threat to return to state in 2023.
No. 6 Brighton softball returns to state
The Lady Cardinals cruised through the region and sectionals to return to Murfreesboro for the first time since 2017.
They beat Obion County 10-2 and edged Dyer County 3-1 to win the regional title. The sectional game against Bolton was not competitive as Brighton scored 15 runs in the first inning and six more in the second to end the game. Brie Howard and Adin Shelton each homered for the Lady Cards, and Katelyn Jones pitched three hitless innings.
Brighton went through twice and were eliminated in the national championship, but it was a season to remember.
County high schools number 7 are getting lawns
There was pushback when the board last year approved a $3.8 million project to install turf at three of the district’s high schools. Posters on Facebook expressed concern about turf injuries and costs. The funding came from the school system’s fund balance, not federal aid funds, which The Leader incorrectly reported.
In the end, the turf received excellent reviews from all involved.
“Huge,” Covington coach JR Kirby said when asked how big of a deal the new turf is. “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but in the past I’d cut the grass at midnight or 2 or 3 in the morning sometimes when it was raining.”
“It’s not 1987 Three Rivers Stadium,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said, referring to the vintage turf used in many professional stadiums in the ’80s and ’90s. “People talk about it all the time. Indoor/outdoor carpet isn’t what’s on your mom’s back porch. You can lie down and sleep on these things. It’s not your grandfather’s old Astro field.”
No. 8, Christian Perez wins state decathlon
It has been a good season for the Munford High School track program.
On May 19-20 in Brentwood, senior Christian Perez became the first Munford track and field athlete to take first place at state when he won the decathlon. His teammate, junior Jace Hodgin, finished second.
A week later at the sectional meet nearly 20 Cougars and Lady Cougars qualified for the Spring Fling state meet,
The Lady Cougars started the sectional meet with a 1, 2, 3 record in the pentathlon. By the time the running events began at noon Saturday, the Lady Cougars had scored 92 points and held a commanding lead. From there, things only got better as the 4×800 relay took 1st place, setting a new school record. The Lady Cougars had multiple athletes win in nearly every single event. By the end of the night, they had amassed 181 points, nearly doubling the second-place Ripley Tigers, en route to securing the Sectional Championship, the first for the girls track program.
The boys team also won the sectional competition and finished second at the state competition.
Football coach no. 9 Brighton comes and goes
The Morgan Cruce era in Brighton started off great (a 56-26 season-opening win at St. Benedict’s), struggled midway through (a slew of injuries and a four-game losing streak) and ended with a 3-7 record.
It ended after 12 months when he resigned earlier this month.
Cruce said he is leaving to take the running backs coaching job at the University of North Alabama, a Division I school in Florence.
“For five or six years, maybe up to 10, I had the ambition and the dream to coach Division I football,” Cruce said after breaking the news to his players. “It seemed like the right time, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Number 10 Ja Morant visits Munford
Some serious star power showed up in the Munford High School gym last July.
Ja Morant, the Memphis Grizzlies all-star guard and one of the most popular basketball players in the world, appeared at the Stark Skills Academy Camp.
And he put on a show.
In addition to showing off his ability to dunk with a reverse jam, he led the kids in a march/dance from baseline to baseline.
After a professional career that included time with the Minnesota Timberwolves summer league team, former Munford and Brighton High basketball standout Jonathan Stark decided to start a basketball camp because he wanted to give back to his community by teaching kids the game of basketball.
“Munford is a very small town, it’s not talked about a lot and I want to make an impact and let kids know that they can do it, no matter what situation you’re in,” Stark said. “No matter where you come from, how small the town is, you can make it if you just work hard.”