Rockets, Bulldogs pursue big goals
When the Forrest Rockets and Cornersville Bulldogs take to the home field gridirons tonight they will both be fighting to stay in first place in their respective regions with Chapel Hill hosting East Robertson and the Frog Bottom boys entertaining Summertown.
The Marshall County Tigers (6-1, 3-0) are also in the top spot in Region 4A and have a bye this week before travelling to Spring Hill next week.
It's been 36 years since the Forrest Rockets have gone undefeated and with probably, their toughest game of the season behind them they have three games remaining to cap off an unblemished record.
"Going undefeated is very important to this senior class," Forrest coach Brent Johns said. "That was one of their goals to start the season and that's who I want it for the most."
The third-ranked Rockets (7-0, 4-0) are in position to accomplish the feat because of a huge 35-28 win last week over fifth-ranked Watertown in what many local observers say is one of the best games ever played by Chapel Hill, especially the grind it out seven plus minute drive that led to the go ahead touchdown by Jacob Jones with 28 seconds remaining in the contest.
"It was huge, it's the biggest home win we've had here in years," Johns said. "I'm happy for our players, students and entire community. This football program is a group effort."
The Rockets host the Indians (2-4, 1-2) in the final regular season home game of the year at Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill with senior night ceremonies proceeding the ballgame that kicks off at 7 p.m.
Forrest has a bye week next Friday before finishing off its regular season slate with road games at Eagleville and Jackson County.
"We have three good opponents remaining, but we are just worried about East Robertson this Friday," Johns pointed out.
On a rainy night at Cross Plains last year, Forrest struggled with some early Indian trickery before pulling away in a 56-26 win and Johns expects the much improved East Robertson team to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them tonight.
"East Robertson gave us fits in the first half last year," Johns said. "They are well-coached and will come in here and throw everything they have at us, so we've got a huge target on our back each week now."
"From here on out, we will get everyone's best effort, so we are just constantly reminding the kids of what we have at stake and how much we have to play for."
The win for the Rockets will have to be garnered just as all seven have come so far through a running attack that has produced 1,522 yards on the ground with Slayton Wild leading the way with 366 yards on 52 carries and two touchdowns, followed closely behind by Jones, who has ran for 334 yards on 35 touches with three TD.
Nick McClendon has scored four touchdowns with 247 yards on 51 carries, Scrappy Osborne has 167 yards and one TD, Troy Turner has 156 yards and a touchdown, while Wesley McCoy's (107 yards) five rushing touchdowns leads the squad.
"It makes it easier to call plays, that's for sure," Johns said. "And it also wears the opponent down late in the game."
The Forrest passing game is not that shabby either and is set up by the great rushing attack that averages 6.2 yards per carry.
"Our passing game is a direct result of our running game," Johns said. "Our better pass plays are play action passes off of our better run plays and our quarterbacks and receivers are executing when it counts."
Starting QB Layton Bennett is 14-32 with 294 yards and four touchdowns and has thrown just two interceptions, while the second man in line Josh Meglis has completed seven-of-eight passes for 190 and two scores and has not thrown a pick.
Unfortunately, the otherwise healthy Rockets will be without the services of standout senior cornerback and receiver Anthony Kritz, who suffered a spleen injury and will miss the remainder of the season.
Kritz, Luke Cunningham, Michael Dyer and Kagen Warren all have one touchdown reception for the Rockets, while Wild leads the way with 136 yards and two scores.
The Class 2A Rockets will not stub their toe in this one as they maul the Indians 36-7 to stay unbeaten and in first place in Region 4.
The 1A Bulldogs, in the midst of a magical season sport a 4-2 overall record and are 4-0 in Region 4A play and will be looking for their fourth win in a row as they finish up a four-game home stand this week at Cornersville versus Summertown on senior night.
"They are a well-coached team and coach (Leslie) Mote and his staff have done a tremendous job building a good foundation for that program," Cornersville coach Gerrard Randolph said. "After watching several hours of film on them, they are very athletic and they are very sound at all three phases of the game. It will be a tall task for us on Friday night."
Last week at Frog Bottom, the Dawgs beat Huntland 40-16 as they pulled away from the Hornets with a big second half.
"This win has given our team confidence as we head into Friday night for a big game against Summertown," Randolph said. "The guys are the ones that have worked there tails off to get to this point and I want them to continue to work hard and go out and give a great effort against Summertown this Friday."
Cornersville has turned the corner in eliminating the early season mistakes as they are now at a plus one in the turnover category, something Randolph has stressed as the most important factor in winning ballgames.
"We definitely would like to stay on the plus side," Randolph said. "When you are able to create turnovers and score points off of turnovers that gives us a really good chance to compete in the football game."
The Bulldogs run the football and they do it well, rushing for 1,710 yards on the season, while averaging 6.9 yards per carry and 28.8 points per game.
"I will be honest, I like a strong running game and my first objective when taking the job here was to build a physical football team," Randolph said. "I think learning how to line up and winning in the trenches gives you a good foundation to start that objective."
Eli Woodard can break the 1,000 yard mark this week as the sophomore has gained 905 yards on 101 carries and five touchdowns, while fellow sophomore Cameron Whittaker leads the squad with nine rushing touchdowns, gaining 604 yards on 64 touches.
"Our offense is doing an awesome job of moving the ball and putting points on the board," Randolph stated. "Averaging close to 30 points a game is pretty good in high school football and that is a testament to the kids buying into the system that we have installed. Coach Aaron Pitts does a good job of getting the ball in our playmakers hands."
Trenten Warren has chipped in with 155 yards and four TD.
"We work hard every day at practice on getting better at our run game, but we have not abandoned the pass and I would like to compliment the running game with a good passing game also," Randolph said. "I just want to be really good at what we do and that is running the ball. That is our identity right now."
The Bulldogs have played superlative defense this season, allowing opposing teams 17.7 points per game and they have three returns for touchdowns by the defense.
"Defensively, we have played well, but not as well as I would have liked." Randolph stressed. "I would love to get that 17.7 points per game down to 10 or under. We will keep working hard to get better on this side of the ball."
Four wins in a row would be huge for the Cornersville and the Bulldogs pull it with a hard fought 27-21 win over the upstart Eagles.
"We want to keep this momentum going and get closer to achieving our team goals." Randolph said. "The guys deserve so much to have success this season. We have asked a lot out of them and they have responded."
A win would send the Bulldogs to Columbia Academy next week in one of the biggest games in Bulldogs football history in a battle for region supremacy.
"It would also be nice to have a showdown with Columbia Academy next week of undefeated teams in the region," Randolph stated. "But our first objective is to take care of business this Friday night."