Cornersville's late season tailspin continued Friday night, as the Bulldogs (4-5, 3-3 Region) suffered their third straight loss with a 35-6 setback on the road at the hands of the Collinwood Trojans (6-3, 5-1 Region).
Desperately needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the banged up Bulldogs put up a fight early on and played Collinwood to a scoreless tie in the first quarter. The game, however, began to get away from Cornersville in the second period, as the Trojans scored on three straight drives to take a 21-0 lead into the break. Collinwood then tacked on two more touchdowns in the third quarter to forge a 35-0 advantage midway through the stanza before cruising to the 29-point victory.
Thanks to Friday's loss, the Bulldogs can finish no better than fourth in the Region standings even if they knock off second place Perry County in their season finale.
"I think there's still a lot to play for. We can't have a winning season at this point, but we can avoid a losing season if we can beat Perry County next week," said Cornersville coach Ray Stocstill. "You can learn a lot of lessons from adversity and right now we're going through some tough times because of injuries."
Although the Bulldogs were without the services of starting defensive lineman Matthew Begley and Carlos Guzman, Collinwood finished with a modest 248 yards of total offense, which included 141 yards rushing on 32 carries, but benefited from excellent field position for much of the contest. The Trojans average starting point on their four scoring drives was the Cornersville 40 while Collinwood wide receiver Kaleb Clark also added a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Running back Max Risner spearheaded the Trojan ground attack with 108 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries to go along with a 14-yard reception.
Collinwood quarterback Jacob Davis turned in an efficient performance and completed 8-of-12 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide out Jacob Ritter hauled in two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown to pace the Trojan receiving corps. Clark also had two receptions for 22 yards, while Chase Roberson added a 13-yard touchdown catch.
Bulldog senior safety Dylan Jones fought hard to the end and led Cornersville's defense with seven tackles. Matt Osteen, Noah Rubbo, and Joe Stocstill each registered six tackles for the Bulldogs as well, while Zach Ownby, Tyler Henry, Jon Douglas, and Brandon Kendrick all had four tackles. Chase Bassham also recorded three tackles and John Brewer notched two tackles and a sack.
With junior quarterback Josh Pope forced to move to receiver because of a wrist injury, Cornersville struggled offensively for the third straight week and mustered just 121 yards overall, including only 12 yards in the first half.
"We're not even a shadow of the team we were before," said Ray Stocstill. "We've lost several starters to injury and when you're a small single A team it makes it difficult. We just ran out of bullets."
Aided by five sacks of Bulldog starting quarterback Josh Polly, Collinwood held Cornersville to -15 yards rushing on 17 carries. Jones paced the Bulldog ground game with seven yards on five carries, while Joe Stocstill had a three-yard touchdown run on his lone rushing attempt. Cornersville's leading rusher Taylor Rogers, meanwhile, finished with -11 yards on four carries.
Polly got off to a slow start before eventually finding his rhythm late in the contest and completing 14-of-27 passes for 136 yards.
Josh Pope and Brent Pope were Polly's primary targets and each hauled in four passes for 55 and 43 yards respectively. Brewer also had two catches for 13 yards and Henry had one catch for 14 yards.
The Bulldogs quickly advanced to the Trojan 39 on their opening possession thanks to a Joe Stocstill 25-yard kickoff return, a six-yard run by Jones, and a Josh Pope nine-yard reception, but picked up just five yards on their next four plays and were forced to give up the ball on downs.
Collinwood then notched three first downs on their ensuing drive to move down to the Cornersville 26, but the Bulldog defense stiffened and ended up halting the Trojan march. After Rubbo tackled Risner for a two-yard loss on first down, Brewer and Henry dropped Davis for another two-yard loss on the next play, before Davis threw consecutive incompletions
Neither team picked up a first down on the next three offensive series, before Collinwood started their third drive at the Cornersville 22 with the help of a 23-yard punt return by Clark.
The Bulldog defense appeared they might hold again, as the Trojans failed to gain any ground on their next three plays, but Davis hit Ritter for a 22-yard touchdown pass over the middle on 4th and 10 while Edgar Salas tacked on the extra point to give Collinwood a 7-0 lead with 7:59 left in the second quarter.
Following another three and out by Cornersville, the Trojans set up shop in Bulldog territory again and put together a six-play, 47-yard scoring drive, capped by a Roberson 13-yard touchdown catch, to open up a 14-0 advantage.
Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the Collinwood 18, but the play was called back because of a clipping penalty and Cornersville had to start the drive at their own seven. Polly then threw three straight incompletions before the Trojans started their fifth drive at the Bulldog 31 thanks to a short Cornersville punt.
The Trojans cashed in on the favorable field position once more, as Risner broke loose for a nine-yard touchdown run three plays later while Salas added the extra point to make it 21-0 with 2:24 left in the half.
Collinwood then delivered the knockout blow at the start of the third quarter and marched 61 yards to the end zone in nine plays on their first offensive series of the stanza, punctuated by a Risner 14-yard touchdown run, to stretch their lead to 28-0.
Things got worse for the Bulldogs a few moments later, as Cornersville failed to record a first down on their opening drive of the half before Clark raced 70 yards to pay dirt on the punt return to give the Trojans a 35-0 cushion with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs finally showed some signs of life on their next possession and drove from their own 35 to the Collinwood nine with the help of a spectacular 30-yard diving catch by Josh Pope and a Brent Pope 13-yard reception. Unfortunately, Cornersville picked up only two yards on their next three plays before Josh Pope was stopped a couple yards short of the end zone on 4th and goal after hauling in a pass from Polly.
Cornersville then kept the Trojans pinned deep in their own territory and spoiled Collinwood's shutout bid by engineering a seven-play, 46-yard touchdown drive to trim the deficit to 35-6. After Polly hit Henry for a 14-yard gain on 3rd and 10, Brent Pope hauled in receptions of 13 and 12 yards to give the Bulldogs a 1st and goal at the Trojan three. Stocstill then scored on a three-yard touchdown jaunt on the next play before the Trojans kept Rodgers out of the end zone on the two-point conversion run.