Bulldogs fall to high-flying Fayetteville
The Bulldogs took to the field Friday night looking to celebrate homecoming with a win against highly regarded Fayetteville City High (7-2, 6-1) after getting handled 56-0 by Columbia Academy the previous week.
Cornersville (2-7, 2-5) looked like a totally different ball team in the first half, trailing the second place team in Region 4-A by just two scores at halftime before succumbing to the quickness of the Tigers in a 43-0 loss in a game that was closer than the final score indicates.
Close at first
"Our coaches did a good job setting up a game plan," Cornersville coach Gerald Randolph said. "We thought we could have some success against them and we did. Eventually, we just ran out of gas in the second half."
The Tigers scored first on a 4-yard touchdown run with 7:41 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs came alive on the following drive starting with a 27-yard run by Trenton Warren that saw the freshman run over two helpless defenders en route to his longest carry of the night.
"We came out more pumped this week," Warren said. "We watched a lot of film on these guys to get ready for them and we worked hard in practice this past week. We lost our last game so we revised a lot of things for this game."
The hard work paid off for Warren as the Bulldogs relied heavily on the young running back on the second series of the game. With Warren gaining 66 yards on nine carries, Cornersville drove to the Fayetteville 2-yard line before a scrambling Eli Woodard found a Willie Lyles alone in the end zone, but the ball bounced off the receiver's fingertips to bring up fourth down.
"If I make a better pass, if I don't throw across my body and set my feet, we score," a disappointed Woodard said. "Then our confidence is up and then we know we can hang with them."
Cornersville played it safe on fouth down opting to try the field goal, but the 25-yard attempt by Ben Taylor sailed left of the uprights and the Bulldogs came up empty on its most productive drive of the night.
"I think anytime you have a chance to put points on the board and you don't capitalize, it hurts your team," Randolph said. "They knew they were right there and they couldn't take advantage of it. So, yeah, I think it deflates you a little bit."
The Bulldogs defense, led by C.J. Coble and Lyles with 7.5 tackles each, was able to hold the high-powered Fayetteville offense to just one more score to trail only 14-0 at intermission.
The Tigers, however, went on a rampage in the third period, scoring 21 points to bring on a running clock under the mercy rule for the final quarter.
The Bulldogs once again gave the sellout homecoming crowd a glimpse of the future with 190 yards rushing combined by four freshman with Warren leading the charge with a career-high 112 yards on 21 attempts. Woodard gained 44 yards on 13 tries while Cam Whitaker had 32 yards on just four carries, and tight end Peyton Finch earned 12 hard-fought yards on two late runs.
"This week our game plan was a little different for Fayetteville," Woodard said. "They're a team that's probably gonna go far in the playoffs and we gave them fits in the first half. We just ran out of gas in the second.
"If we score on our first-, second- or third-and-goal chances, they probably get their heads down and we're still in the game."
Finch and Warren also came up big on defense finishing with 5 and 4.5 tackles, respectively. Cayde Fitzgerald and Woodard each chipped in four tackles while defensive lineman Dillard Hatchett turned in three, two of which were for a loss along with a sack.
The Bulldogs finish the 2015 season at 7 p.m. Friday against longtime rival Richland (2-7, 0-7) who will be looking to end a seven-game losing streak after beginning the season 2-0.
Despite both teams being eliminated from the playoff hunt, the fierce rivalry will still be played for bragging rights due to the proximity of the two small southern middle Tennessee schools.
"These guys, even though theyre young, they're extremely competitive,"Randolph emphasized. "Yes, we've had two big losses the past two weeks, but they're still a competitive group of guys.
"They love to play. That's what's going to help them in the long run is how competitive they are. They aren't going to settle for 2-7. We still have a ways to go but we're going to be OK."