The Cornersville Middle School Bulldogs accomplished something that CMS had not done in over 20 years Saturday when they traveled to the cotton fields of southern Tennessee and utterly thumped the Flintville Bobcats 38-20 before a stunned home crowd to win the Elk River Valley Championship. Playing without standout running back Taylor Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in an earlier game against LMS, the Bulldogs scored a school record 30 points in the second quarter and easily held on to bring the championship back home.
In his pre-game speech, Bulldog Coach Eric Crabtree urged his troops to win this for the school, for themselves, and the injured Rodgers. The Bulldogs went out, swept with emotion from start to finish and dominated on both sides of the ball to capture the elusive title they have been working towards since the heat of summer training camp. The Bulldogs played with an intensity rarely seen for players this age and it can only be attributed to the great coaching the Bulldogs had leading up this championship game. Coach Eric Crabtree, along with assistants Corey Crabtree and Shane Duke prepared the team to do battle while being undermanned and knowing nothing about the opponent leading up to the contest. Twenty years of pent up emotion spewed from the hearts of the Bulldog players as they went out to make their alma mater proud.
The first quarter saw the Bobcats score early on a 2 yard run from Bobcat quarterback Joseph Land that culminated a 53 yard drive. After the Bobcat points, the floodgates opened as the Bulldogs would eventually score an amazing 38 unanswered points to stun the Flintville fateful. The first scoring drive came late in the first quarter as CMS quarterback Aaron Crowell completed a pass of 39 yards down the right sideline to Chad Riner and after a short run by Carlos Guzman, Crowell connected on a perfect pass to Josh "Boochie" Pope who scampered to pay dirt from 16 yards out. Crowell muscled in for the two point conversion and the Bulldogs had tied the game at 8-8.
On Flintville's next possession the Bulldog defense began to bite in a big way when Luke Lineberger crushed the Bobcat running back in the hole that lit a fire under his defensive mates. After Carlos Guzman broke through the line for another sack, Justin McCord made the big play when he chased down Land for a 22 yard loss on third down. A weak punt gave CMS great field position and the Bulldogs marched down the field with McCord rumbling in from 7 yards out for the TD. McCord punched through for the extra points and the Bulldogs led for good 16-8.
The menacing Bulldog defense smelled blood on the next possession as "Boochie" belted a Bobcat on one play, Matt Osteen crushed another runner coming through the line, and Brandon Moss made a bone jarring hit on the sidelines that was felt clear across the field. On fourth down, the Bobcats tried in vain to mount a first down, but were stopped as "Boochie Pope" and Matthew Begley smothered the play.
The Bulldog offense took the field and Crowell led them with great leadership and precise passing. Joe Stocstill made an amazing diving catch over the middle for 29 yards and then Crowell floated a beautiful pass down the right sideline to Chad Riner for another 23 yards down to the Bobcat eight yard line. Justin McCord scored two plays later and also added the 2-point conversion to jack the Bulldog lead to 24-8. Lightening struck Flintville on the next possession when McCord scooped up a Bobcat fumble and raced 45 yards for a touchdown that electrified the huge Bulldog traveling crowd and the rout was on.
Who said lightning does strike the same place twice? On the Bobcat's very first play the next possession, Josh "Boochie" Pope stepped in front of a Bobcat receiver, picked his pocket and danced down the left sidelines, untouched for a 62 yard score that sent the Bulldog crowd and the sidelines into a state of pandemonium. The Bulldogs led 38-8 and Flintville never fully recovered from being burnt.
Coach Crabtree's hardest task of the night was keeping his team from letting down in the second half and allowing Flintville back in the game. The team would have nothing to do with a letdown as they stayed fire up during the halftime break with motivation from 8th grade leaders, Rodgers, Crowell, Pope, McCord, and Begley. The Bulldogs wanted the crown that the school had waited so long to capture and nothing was going to stand in the way of that goal.
The second half saw the Bulldogs grind the clock; get yards when they needed them, and stand stout defensively.
A special mention is appropriate here for Bulldog lineman Matthew Begley who was matched up against the behemoth 6 foot 2, 270 pound Bobcat lineman John Cresson on both sides of the ball. These two were in a dogfight all night long and Begley matched Cresson blow for blow.
The Bobcats managed two fairly meaningless touchdowns in the half and never could muster enough emotion to mount a full comeback. The final score was Bulldogs 38 and the Bobcats 20 and with that the CMS faithful joined the Bulldog's in a celebration that will last for many years to come.
As Coach Crabtree and the team held the Elk River Valley Championship plaque skyward the crowd cheered long and hard and cherished the moment like few other moments ever felt in Cornersville sports history.