Having crushed defending Class A state champ Wayne County 30-0 the previous week, Moore County (2-0) appeared headed for another easy victory on Friday after building a commanding 26-6 lead in the first half.
The Raiders still led 32-12 midway through the fourth quarter, but had to withstand a furious comeback by the Bulldogs that saw Cornersville score 24 points in a span of four and a half minutes to cut the deficit to 39-36 with :52 remaining.
"We came into this game thinking we could win, but we just waited too long to get started," said Cornersville coach Ray Stocstill. "Maybe we had some jitters early on because this was our first game, but we made some adjustments at halftime and talked to the kids about some things. We lost to a good football team, but we let them know that they were in a game."
Despite committing three first half turnovers, the Bulldogs still racked up 453 yards of total offense. CHS quarterback Hayden McMahon shook off a couple of first half interceptions and completed 16-of-28 passes overall for 228 yards and two touchdowns.
Cornersville had great success running the ball as well and churned out 225 yards on the ground while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Senior tailback Zach Small turned in the best performance of his career and rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Chance Dyer also tallied 63 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, while McMahon toted the ball six times for 25 yards.
"Our offensive line played well the whole game. They controlled the line of scrimmage and opened up some big holes for our running backs," said Stocstill.
Bolstered by a slew of big plays, Moore County exceeded the Bulldogs' offensive output and finished with 494 yards from scrimmage overall, which included 364 yards in the first half alone. The Bulldogs did notch eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, but the Raiders offset that by not committing a turnover and recording nine plays of 20 yards or more.
Moore County did most of their damage on the ground and rushed for 351 yards on 39 carries. Running back Matt Taggett had a huge night for the Raiders and finished with 187 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 14 carries.
Moore County quarterback J.P. Evans hurt the Bulldogs with his arm and his legs, as he completed 5-of-10 passes for 130 yards, rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and caught one pass for six yards.
Raider wide outs Dalton Barrier and Antonio Arguelles each snared two passes for 53 and 42 yards respectively, while Dillon Davis had one reception for 53 yards. Davis also saw time at quarterback late in the game and completed both pass attempts for 13 yards.
Blackburn led CHS with nine tackles from his linebacker position, while Josh Singleton, Cody Coblentz, and Nick Groves registered eight, six, and five tackles respectively. Dyer, Jamie Crowell, and Devante Spencer each notched four tackles for the Bulldogs as well.
Cornersville went three and out on their opening possession before Moore County took a 6-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown run by Evans with 8:12 left in the first quarter that capped a five-play, 71-yard drive by the Raiders.
Following a 47-yard kickoff return by Riner that set up the Bulldog offense at the Moore County 43, Small ripped off consecutive runs of 14, seven, and eight yards to move the ball down to the 14.
The Bulldogs ended up coming away empty handed, as the Raiders recovered a CHS fumble on the next snap.
Evans then fumbled the ball four plays later, but Arguelles scooped up the pigskin and raced to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown, before Evans ran in the two-point conversion to give the Raiders a 14-0 advantage.
After Moore County stopped CHS on downs deep in Raider territory on the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, Taggett broke loose for a 91-yard touchdown run to make it 20-0 with :11 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs found the end zone on their fourth possession by putting together a six-play, 57-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a six-yard TD run by Dyer, to trim the deficit to 20-6 early in the second quarter.
Moore County mounted an immediate response and stretched their lead to 26-6 on a nine-yard touchdown run by Evans with 5:25 left in the second quarter.
The Raiders then picked off McMahon on the Bulldogs' next two possessions to keep the margin at 20 points heading into halftime.
After forcing Moore County to punt on their opening drive of the second half, the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to 26-12 with 3:02 left in the third quarter thanks to a 10-yard touchdown run by Dyer.
The Raiders found pay dirt on their next offensive series and pushed their lead to 32-12 on the strength of a nine-yard touchdown jaunt by Taggett with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter.
Cornersville continued to fight back and whittled the deficit to 32-20 with 5:23 remaining behind a five-yard touchdown catch by Riner and a McMahon two-point conversion run after Lowery caught a 28-yard pass to convert a 3rd and 10 situation earlier in the drive.
The Bulldogs then recovered an onsides kick attempt before advancing from their own 49 to the Raider 1 with the help of a 26-yard catch by Blackburn and runs of 12 and 10 yards by Small and McMahon respectively. Following a one-yard touchdown plunge by Dyer, McMahon found Blackburn in the end zone on the two-point conversion attempt to close the gap to 32-28 with 3:51 left.
Moore County extended their lead to 39-28 on their ensuing offensive series when Taggett scored on a 37-yard touchdown scamper and Cole Price converted the extra point after Evans caught a six-yard pass on a critical 4th and 3 play a few moments earlier.
On their next possession, the Bulldogs moved quickly down the field, as Lowery made a 56-yard catch and run on the first play of the drive before McMahon hit Riner for a 17-yard touchdown strike two snaps later. McMahon then ran in the two-point conversion to slice the deficit to 39-36.
Cornersville attempted another onsides kick, but the Raiders recovered at midfield before Evans took a knee to burn the remaining time off the clock.