Columbia Academy outlasts Cornersville
The Cornersville Bulldogs missed a chance to strengthen their playoff resume on Friday, as they suffered an agonizing 56-46 loss to Region 6-A rival Columbia Academy at home on Senior Night after squandering a 19-point second quarter lead.
Having lost the last two meetings against CA, the Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3 Region) appeared to be in control of Friday's contest early on and held a 33-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
Cornersville, however, experienced a major reversal of fortune after that point, as Columbia Academy (4-4, 1-4 Region) trimmed the deficit to 33-21 at halftime before outscoring CHS 35-13 over the final two quarters to escape with the 10-point victory.
Despite Friday's setback, the Bulldogs stayed in fourth place in the Region 6-A standings and remain in the hunt to grab one of the at large bids for the upcoming Class A playoffs.
"We had them where we wanted them, but we let our foot off the gas. You can't let up in this game. Give credit to Columbia Academy. They didn't give up and kept fighting," said Cornersville coach Ray Stocstill. "We still have a real good opportunity to get in the playoffs. If we win one of our next two games, we should get in. If we win both games, we're definitely in."
Although CHS committed four costly turnovers, the Bulldogs posted some gaudy offensive numbers and amassed 522 yards from scrimmage overall, which included 371 yards in the first half alone.
After earning the Channel 4 Player of the Week Award for his effort against Wayne County seven days earlier, CHS quarterback Hayden McMahon turned in his second straight impressive performance, as he completed 17-of-27 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns to go along with one interception.
Junior wide out Stone Riner made several big plays for Cornersville and hauled in nine passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Black also notched two receptions for 21 yards, while Tyler Lowery, Cody Blackburn, and Josh Singleton each had one catch for 29, 17, and eight yards respectively.
CA also had trouble slowing down the Bulldogs' ground game, as CHS churned out 238 yards rushing on 31 attempts. Sophomore running back Chance Dyer was a work horse for Cornersville and toted the ball 30 times for 252 yards and four touchdowns, while catching three passes for 18 yards as well.
"Tonight Chance and Stone had two of the best individual performances I've ever seen. Hayden made some nice throws too and had a good ballgame," said Stocstill. "If you score 46 points, you should have an opportunity to win the game."
Columbia Academy's offensive attack proved to be equally as potent, as they rolled up 511 yards from scrimmage overall.
CA quarterback Jackson Cary riddled the Bulldogs' secondary for much of the night and completed 29-of-44 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns to go along with one interception.
Drew Thornton and Thomas Garrison led Columbia Academy's receiving corps by each snaring nine passes for 134 and 110 yards respectively while scoring two touchdowns apiece. Cole Chambley also tallied six catches for 53 yards and Taylor Thompson had three catches for 47 yards and a TD.
CA ran the ball effectively enough to keep Cornersville off balance defensively and finished with 149 yards rushing on 38 carries. J.D. Davis paced Columbia Academy's ground game with 85 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while Ethan Foster and Hudson Primm each toted the ball eight times for 42 and 35 yards respectively with Foster scoring one TD.
"We just couldn't slow them down," said Stocstill. "They had a really good scheme. If we put too many men in the box, they checked off and threw the ball. If we tried to play coverage, they ran the ball."
Josh Singleton led the Bulldog defense with 12 tackles, while Nick Groves and Blake Tomlin both tallied nine tackles with Groves notching an interception and Tomlin recording a sack. Jamie Crowell, Justin Black, Dyer, and Cody Coblentz also registered eight, seven, six, and five tackles respectively for CHS.
Both teams were stopped on downs on their opening possession of the game before the Bulldogs put together a four-play, 56-yard touchdown drive to grab a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After ripping off runs of 15 and 27 yards, Dyer scored on a 15-yard TD jaunt while Victor Palma tacked on the extra point.
CA tied the game at 7-7 thanks to a 15-yard touchdown catch by Thompson before Garrison recovered a fumble by Dyer at the Columbia Academy 36 a few moments later.
On CA's next offensive series, Thornton caught an 18-yard pass to move the ball past midfield, but Groves picked off Cary two plays later and rumbled 37 yards to set up the Bulldog offense at the Columbia Academy 28.
Riner then hauled in a 28-yard touchdown strike from McMahon on the next snap while Palma converted the extra point to give CHS a 14-7 advantage late in the first quarter.
Following a CA punt, McMahon and Riner hooked up again for a 58-yard TD pass to make it 20-7 with 11:16 left in the second quarter.
Cornersville quickly got the ball back when Crowell recovered an onside kick attempt at midfield before Columbia Academy was called for a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play.
Riner then scored his third TD of the evening by catching a screen pass from McMahon and racing 27 yards to the end zone to push the Bulldogs lead to 26-7.
CA trimmed the deficit to 26-14 on a 31-yard touchdown catch by Thornton, but Cornersville mounted an immediate response and put together an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive that was capped by a three-yard TD run by Dyer to open up a 33-14 advantage with 5:18 left in the half.
After Columbia Academy narrowed the gap to 33-21 on the strength of a 15-yard touchdown catch by Garrison, both teams came up empty on their final drive of the first half, before CA whittled the deficit to 33-28 early in the third quarter with the help of a Thornton 38-yard TD reception.
The Bulldogs marched 74 yards to pay dirt in 11 plays on their next offensive series, which was punctuated by a seven-yard touchdown jaunt by Dyer, to extend their lead to 40-28, but Cary hit Garrison for a 28-yard TD strike less than two minutes later to close the gap to 40-35 late in the third quarter.
Following a three and out by Cornersville, McMahon had the ball snapped over his head on the punt attempt and Columbia Academy recovered the pigskin at the CHS 14.
The Bulldogs managed to stop CA on downs when Devante Spencer broke up a 4th and goal pass by Cary in the back of the end zone, but Cornersville failed to move the chains on their next offensive series and were forced to punt again.
Cary then capped a seven-play, 47-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge before finding Shires in the end zone on the two-point conversion pass to put Columbia Academy up 43-40 with 7:53 left in the fourth quarter.
After Thornton picked off McMahon at the CHS 37 on the Bulldogs ensuing drive, Davis scored on a two-yard TD run seven plays later to stake CA to a 50-40 advantage with 4:57 left.
Cornersville started their next possession at the Columbia Academy 42 thanks to a 42-yard kickoff return by Riner and a 15-yard facemask penalty on CA. Riner then made a tough 33-yard catch on the next play before Dyer scored on a nine-yard touchdown run to slice the deficit to 50-46. Palma's extra point attempt was blocked to keep the deficit at four-points.
Following an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by CHS, Columbia Academy stretched their lead to 56-46 with 1:54 remaining when Foster scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out.
CA then recovered a Bulldog fumble at their own 39 to halt Cornersville's comeback hopes before picking up a first down and running out the clock to claim their fourth win of the year.