Bulldog alumni halt Richland in 2 OTs

Friday, August 22, 2014
Cornersville and Richland players make a video for Alumni Football USA's YouTube page. Tribune photo by Ivory Riner

Cornersville and Richland High School alumni padded up for a full-contact game at the Battle of Buford Station.

The game was hosted by Alumni Football USA, an organization created by Bob Cazet, M.Ed., a former Marine and national championship head coach. With a Master's degree in education, Cazet is a former college instructor at Auburn University, head softball coach at Stanford, and a teacher in the California school system. His love for kids, football, teaching, and coaching led him to create a business model that benefits the schools and former football players.

Alumni Football USA provides pads and jerseys for guys to gear up and play one last game of football, while raising money for their school.

Jonathan "Booger" Goldman runs the ball as he is defended by Richland cornerback Jordan Hale. "I was able to play with people I looked up to when I was young at Cornersville and also played with people I hopefully influenced when I played in high school. I never thought I would ever step on that field again and being able to play with great teammates I can pretty much call my brothers was the best feeling in the world. We played for not only ourselves, but for the great town and school of Cornersville. Not only was it a privilege, but a honor to put on and support the great colors of Cornersville," said Goldman. Photo by Pap

Fundraiser

While Richland provided the field, the foundation allowed them to receive 50 percent of the pre-sale tickets sold and money made at the gate. Cornersville High also received 50 percent of their pre-sold tickets.

About 1,700 people showed up to watch the rivals go head-to-head. Richland made approximately $4,000 in presale tickets, and about $2,000 on concessions.

Photo by Pap Running back and receiver Stone Riner runs the ball in the alumni game. "Playing Saturday night was everything. There's nothing I love more than putting on those pads and playing my game," said Riner. He plans to walk on with one of the five schools that offered him a scholarship. Riner was the fastest on the team at Cornersville his junior and senior year.

Alumni Football USA also received donations from local businesses that went towards Richland. Altogether, they raised about $6,500. Cornersville raised approximately $1,800 from pre-sale tickets.

"This game is about restoration, Jesus Christ, raising money, and coming back and being a warrior. This was really the game of the year. Everyone had so much integrity and character. These boys came out hitting hard," said Archie Letson, team coordinator for Alumni Football USA.

Oldest, youngest

Among the alumni players for Cornersville was 54-year-old Richard Phillips. Phillips, a 1978 graduate and oldest player on the team, made one of the hardest hits in the game Saturday night, but was flagged because it was below the knees. "I don't feel any different, I'm just hurting a bit more. I never thought I'd actually do this," he said. Phillips' son Jesse, a 2014 graduate, happened to be the youngest player on the team. "Playing with my son meant a whole lot. I enjoyed every minute of it. Not everyone gets that opportunity," said Richard Phillips.

Awards were handed out after the game.

Chad "Bull" Warren, Class of 1999, got the Leadership award; Dylan Jones, Class of 2010, was Defensive MVP; Josh Pope, Class of 2011, was Special Teams MVP, and Stone Riner, Class of 2014, was Offensive MVP.

"I never thought I'd do this again. It's awesome and I would definitely do it again. This game got my endorphins going. It was really great," said 22-year-old Jones. This was Jones' fourth football MVP award.

Head coach Jamie Holt, who coached for Richland 10 years ago, was the head coach. "I went to school with some of the boys, so they came to me to coach. Our boys were a little small, but they played very hard and made me proud. They definitely rose to the occasion," said Holt. "I'm so proud of the whole team, and especially the outcome. I don't think anyone could have scripted a game any more exciting with a double-overtime win. I think everyone at the game, on both sides, had a great time cheering on their players and their team. It was awesome. The stands were filled with excitement. The field was lined almost all the way around with people. You don't see that even in a high school game. I know Richland School was appreciative of the money raised for their school. I now hope Cornersville School can get on board for a rematch here. We did make Cornersville School some money, but it could be a lot more if the rematch could be held here. I think it would be an epic night," said assistant coach Phillip Dyer.

Bulldogs return

Among the players for Cornersville were two servicemen, Chase Bassham, Class of 2010, and Brandon Cannon, Class of 1993. On the team was also Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Sanders, Class of 2004.

Since 2010, Alumni Football USA has coordinated over 600 games that have raised over $1 million for schools around the United States. The Cornersville alumni plans to play again in the spring, picking up more players for their hard-hitting dynamic powerhouse.