Young Bulldogs ready to roll
After a tough 3-7 finish last year, the Cornersville Bulldogs have a new coach and some renewed enthusiasm thanks to a talented group of freshman and some returning linemen who should recharge the troops in Frog Bottom.
"It's been enjoyable so far," coach Gerard Randolph said. "I love the game and the kids have been responding and buying in, so it's been fun."
Some early injuries have set the Bulldogs back a bit from doing as much hitting as they would like. This has made Randolph a bit unsure of what he has leading up to Cornersville's match with Richland at the Columbia Academy Jamboree on Aug. 15.
"We have several out from injuries, so we try to keep chugging along and keep learning," the coach said. "I told the guys that we have to keep coming in and get better every day."
Battling scorching temperatures has become a norm these days as Randolph and his staff have developed a plan to maximize the workload, while protecting players from the conditions that have sometimes exceeded 100 degrees with the heat index.
The Tennessee Scholastic Sports Athletic Association's policy prohibits teams from practicing outdoors when the heat index at the location of the activity is in excess of 104 degrees.
"It's been humid out here and it'll take your breath, so I want to take care of these guys," Randolph said. "Their health is my most concern right now, so we go about 10 or 15 minutes and give them a water break."
Water is to be available at all times and the heat index is monitored before and during practices by athletic trainer Andrea Craig Roberson.
On Wednesday, the Bulldogs took to the practice field at 3 p.m. and had no problems with the heat, going through a sustained period of stretching before taking on passing and receiving drills, a timed offensive series, PAT drills, and some defensive work.
"I liked their intensity today, but I don't want to have to get it out of them. I want them to have that intensity from the time they step on the field until the last whistle," Randolph said.
Keeping players healthy during the lead up to the season is a challenge for Class A schools that don't have deep rosters such as Cornersville, which has 42 players that have been issued gear.
One of the newcomers to the squad is former Marshall County linebacker Peyton Williams, who transferred to the Bulldogs for his senior season.
Williams will add much-needed depth to the squad and will most likely start at one of the linebacker spots. The coaches also said Williams likely will get a chance to run the football, something he hasn't had a chance to do in several years.
"The heavens must have heard my prayers when Peyton came down, so he will add some much-needed depth," the coach said.
The two key players Randolph must keep healthy throughout the year are freshmen Eli Woodard and Cameron Whittaker.
Woodard looked very sharp at the quarterback on Wednesday, hooking up several times with the speedy Whittaker.
"I told those two from day one that they have a chance to get on the field early and they have stepped up to the challenge," Randolph said. "Look for some good things out of those two right there. They've been doing a heck of a job competing."
Kolbe McMahon, Will Vanhooser and Caleb Crowell will add to the offensive punch for the Bulldogs.
The Dawgs will be classified in Region 4A along with Columbia Academy, Fayetteville, Grace Christian Academy, Huntland, Moore County, Mt. Pleasant, Richland and Summertown, which is playing at the varsity level for the first time.
"I told the guys, whether you're ready or not it's here and this is the best time of the year," Randolph said.
Cornersville opens the regular season on Aug. 21 at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy.
The following week, the Bulldogs will play their first home game against Collinwood before their first region contest against Grace Christian Academy in Frog Bottom.