Big plays burn Bulldogs against Huntland
Cornersville's 2013 football campaign began with a thud on Friday night, as the Bulldogs lost 28-18 to the Huntland Hornets at home in their season opener.
CHS had defeated Huntland five out of the last six years, but the Hornets stung Cornersville with several big plays on Friday and built a 21-12 lead late in the third quarter thanks to three long touchdowns.
After the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to 21-18 on a 7-yard TD catch by Justin Black, Huntland put together an extended touchdown drive to stretch their lead to 28-18 late in the fourth quarter before forcing a late Cornersville turnover to salt away their 10-point victory.
Aided by six plays of 30 yards or longer, the Hornets racked up 405 yards of total offense, which included 239 yards rushing on 36 carries. Cameron Mahaffey led Huntland's ground attack by rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while D.J. Taylor toted the ball 10 times for 82 yards.
With Cornersville missing two starters in their secondary due to injury, Huntland also burned the Bulldogs through the air, as Hornet quarterback Evan Ray completed 3-of-8 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a one-yard TD run.
Wide receiver Kobe Foster was Ray's primary target and hauled in all three completions from the senior signal caller.
Cornersville finished with 321 yards of total offense, but committed two turnovers and had several other drives sabotaged by sacks or bad snaps from center.
"The things that stopped us were our mistakes. We had some bad snaps and misreads that really hurt us," said CHS coach John Denton. "We have to stay on schedule. We can't have negative plays because we're not built to overcome 3rd and 15."
The Bulldogs relied mainly on their running game and rolled up 191 yards rushing on 39 carries. Senior tailback Chance Dyer turned in a valiant effort and was the lone Cornersville ball carrier to finish with positive yardage, as he toted the pigskin 23 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
"Chance was gutsy tonight. He plays as hard as he works. He was much more patient running the ball tonight and it really paid off," said Denton.
Bulldog quarterback Jamie Crowell completed 9-of-17 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed two interceptions and finished with -2 yards rushing on 13 carries after being sacked three times.
Black paced Cornersville's receiving corps by snaring five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Zack Welch and Dyer both had two receptions for 36 and 34 yards respectively.
Dyer registered nine tackles from his outside linebacker position to lead Cornersville's defense. Blake Tomlin and Black also notched seven tackles apiece, while William Liles, Crowell, and Welch each recorded five tackles. Trevor Greene and Cayde Fitzgerald both tallied four tackles for the Bulldogs as well and Lane Hagood recovered a fumble.
The Hornets jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Mahaffey broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game while Austin Scott tacked on the extra point.
Cornersville quickly counterpunched and put together an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive on their opening possession to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Facing a 3rd and 18 situation at their own 17, Crowell found Black for a 34-yard gain to pick up the first down. After Dyer ripped off a 14-yard run, Crowell picked up 14 yards on two straight carries to move the ball down to the Huntland 21. Dyer then rumbled for a 21-yard TD run, but Ben Taylor missed the extra point to leave the deficit at one.
Following an exchange of punts, the Hornets stretched their lead to 14-6 with 1:37 left in the first quarter when Foster caught a slant pass over the middle and raced 77 yards for a touchdown after shaking off a pair of CHS defenders.
Keeping it close
Although Cornersville came up empty on their final three possessions of the first half, the Bulldogs managed to stop Huntland on downs twice in CHS territory to stay within eight points of the Hornets.
Cornersville got their offense cranked back up at the start of the second half and marched 70 yards to the end zone in nine plays on their opening drive of the third quarter to narrow the gap to 14-12.
Dyer sandwiched runs of seven and 38 yards around a Crowell incompletion to move the Bulldogs down to the Hornet 35. Cornersville picked up just four yards on their next three plays, but Dyer hauled in a 25-yard pass from Crowell on fourth down to give the Bulldogs a 1st and goal at the six-yard line. After the ball was moved half the distance to the goal line thanks to a Huntland facemask penalty, Dyer burrowed his way into the end zone from a yard out two plays later before CHS failed on the two-point conversion attempt.
The Bulldogs caught a break a few moments later when Hagood recovered a Mahaffey fumble at the Hornet 45. Cornersville then advanced to the 11 with the help of an eight-yard scamper by Crowell and a Dyer 30-yard run, but the Bulldogs lost 11 yards due to a bad snap before Crowell was picked off by Aaron Williams at the seven-yard line on the next play.
Despite starting their next drive in the shadow of own goal line, Huntland stayed aggressive and quickly advanced to their own 43 thanks to a 32-yard reception by Foster on second down. Ray then victimized CHS' secondary again when he hooked up with Foster for a 57-yard TD pass on the next play to give the Hornets a 21-12 advantage with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs continued to battle and whittled the deficit to 21-18 early in the fourth quarter when Black caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Crowell to punctuate a 10-play, 64-yard drive. Cornersville once again was unable to convert the extra point attempt to keep the deficit at three.
Huntland, however, delivered the knockout blow their ensuing possession, as they engineered a time consuming 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive, capped by a Ray one-yard TD plunge, to extend their lead to 28-18 with 2:43 left.
The Bulldogs tried to mount one final rally attempt and reached the Hornet 41 on their next offensive series with the aid of a 17-yard reception by Welch, but Foster picked off Crowell on the next play to extinguish the CHS threat before Huntland ran out the clock.