Cornersville (0-6, 0-3 Region) had defeated Loretto each of the last two years, but got off to a slow start Friday evening and trailed 14-0 at halftime. After the Bulldogs scored on their first two possessions of the second half to tie the game at 14-14 late in the third quarter, the Mustangs (2-4, 1-2 Region) responded with two quick touchdowns to seize a 28-14 advantage with 8:42 left in the contest before staving off a late CHS rally.
"We didn't come to play football tonight. I don't know if Homecoming affected us, but we didn't come out and fight like we needed to fight. We made several mistakes that were killer mistakes," said Cornersville coach Ray Stocstill. "We didn't convert on a couple of scoring opportunities and had a couple of penalties that kept drives alive for them. You can't make those kind of mistakes in a close ballgame."
Having rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns in his last outing against Forrest, CHS tailback Noah Rubbo was limited to 86 yards on 25 carries by Loretto, while quarterback Hayden McMahon was sacked twice and finished with -5 yards on three attempts.
McMahon had another solid night throwing the ball and completed 21-of-29 passes for 195 yards to go along with one touchdown and one interception.
Jonathan Douglas led Cornersville's receiving corps with eight catches for 97 yards, while Stone Riner hauled in six passes for 36 yards. Rubbo also added five catches for 29 yards and Dillon Bean had two receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Although Mustang quarterback Mitch Weigart failed to complete a pass, Loretto exploited their size advantage upfront and averaged 5.9 yards per carry en route to churning out 295 yards on the ground.
Tailback Zak Kleinke was the main workhorse for the Mustangs and toted the ball 29 times for 168 yards and one touchdown, while fullback Austin Brown tallied 102 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
Linebacker Jessie Gower paced the Bulldog defense with 13 tackles and a fumble recovery, while Singleton recorded 10 tackles and a sack. Patrick Lyle, Mikie Adams, Jacob Gentry, Chance Dyer, and Danny Gordon also notched eight, seven, six, five, and four tackles respectively with Gentry recovering a fumble.
The Mustangs came charging out of the gate and marched 54 yards to the end zone on their opening possession in five plays, capped by a Kleinke five-yard touchdown run, to take a 7-0 lead.
Following a punt by CHS, Lorreto opened up a 14-0 advantage late in the first quarter when Brown scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to cap an 11-play, 72-yard drive.
While Cornersville came up empty on their next three possessions, the Bulldog defense forced the Mustangs to punt twice before setting up their offense in excellent field position late in the first half when Gentry scooped up a fumble and rumbled nine yards down to the Loretto 12 after Singleton jarred the ball loose from Weigart on LHS' fifth offensive series.
Cornersville failed to cash in, though, as they picked up only three yards on their next four plays and lost the ball on downs.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board early in the third quarter thanks to a wild 4th and 4 play on their opening possession of the half. After making a 32-yard catch and run, Rubbo fumbled at the goal line, but Singleton alertly pounced on the ball in the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-6, while Cornersville missed the extra point.
The Mustangs were forced to punt on their ensuing offensive series before Rubbo scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to punctuate a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a Rubbo 23-yard scamper and catches of 12 and 32 yards by Singleton. Rubbo then ran in the two-point conversion to knot the game at 14-14.
The tie proved to be short lived, as Brown scored on a 23-yard touchdown run on Loretto's next possession to give the Mustangs a 21-14 lead.
After losing the ball on downs near midfield, Cornersville forced Loretto to punt, but the Bulldogs muffed the kick and the Mustangs recovered at the CHS 15. Brown then barreled into the end zone from six yards out two plays later to extend Loretto's lead to 28-14.
The Bulldogs tried to mount a rally and narrowed the gap to 28-20 with 5:35 left when McMahon and Bean hooked up for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Although CHS missed the extra point to keep the deficit at eight, Cornersville had a golden opportunity to tie the game a few moments later when Gower pounced on a fumble by Kleinke at the Mustang 27.
The Bulldogs, however, couldn't capitalize on the turnover and were forced to give up the ball on downs after losing seven yards on their next four plays.
Loretto then ran out the clock by picking up three first downs to preserve the win.