Summertown win knocks Bulldogs from 1st to 4th
Major playoff implications were on the line Friday night in southern Marshall County when two of Region 4-1A's biggest surprises went head-to-head when Summertown (7-1, 5-1) made the trip from Lawrence County to take on Cornersville (4-3, 4-1), who was riding its first four-game winning streak in over 20 years coming into the game.
While the end of game statistics for each team were almost identical the Bulldogs hurt themselves with an uncharacteristic inability to put points on the board in the red zone and Summertown left Cornersville with the 24-13 win, dropping the Dawgs from a first place tie to fourth place in the region with three key matchups remaining.
Summertown, in just its second football season, came into the contest with just one loss by nine points to undefeated Columbia Academy, but struggled two weeks prior in a two point win over the same Moore County team Cornersville had beaten by 25 earlier in the year.
The Eagles faced a red hot Bulldog squad that has been averaging 42.3 points per game during its four game winning streak and with a win would set up a matchup of the unbeaten next week at Columbia Academy for a shot at the number one seed in the TSSAA playoffs next month.
"Obviously, we wanted to come out with the win on Friday night and unfortunately that did not happen," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph stated. "We knew coming into the game that Summertown was a good football team. Defensively, our game plan was not to eliminate the big play and we did not do a good job of that. Offensively, I think we ran the ball well, we just have to do a better job once we get inside of the red zone."
The Bulldogs led by strong rushing performances by Eli Woodard (17 rushes, 109 yards) and Cameron Whitaker (17 rushes, 117 yards), while quarterback Henlee Mitchell completed five-of-six passes for 63 yards, but threw an untimely interception late in the contest.
Hard work ahead
"You can learn something from a player by how they handle a loss," Woodard, who also added 53 receiving yards and led the defense with 7.5 tackles, said. "We will work as hard as ever to keep winning. Even though we are in the playoffs we need these wins throughout the year to get a good seed."
The Bulldogs opened up with a strong drive on the Eagles, but on what would become a reoccurring Cornersville trend on the night, they walked away with no points after a Ben Taylor field goal attempt soared wide of the uprights.
Summertown went right to work on Cornersville with Chase Mote taking a hand off the length of the field before Woodard made a touchdown saving tackle inside the 10-yard line.
The Cornersville defense came up huge on the next possession when Devin Baus sacked Riley Chapman, who fumbled the football that was recovered by Brice Dunkleman.
Cornersville made use of the Summertown turnover by taking possession with 6:45 left in the first quarter and embarked on a 13-play drive that would culminate with an Eli Woodard 17-yard touchdown run with zero left on the game clock giving the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Summertown took a page out of the Bulldogs play book and chewed up some clock on the ground, leading to a five-yard Mote touchdown run with a two-point conversion run and an 8-6 lead midway through the second period.
The Bulldogs once again went on a five-minute clock eating drive which was saved on a fourth-and-15 completion from Mitchell to Woodard for 23 yards, which set up an eight-yard Whitaker touchdown run and a 13-8 lead after the Taylor PAT kick.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Whitaker's touchdown was the last scoring play of the night as miscues and turnovers plagued Cornersville throughout the second half in which Summertown outscored the home team 16-0 to claim the win.
"As a team we didn't play as well in the second half of the game," Whitaker admitted. "We didn't come out and make the big plays that we should have made."
"We never seem to play as good when our schedule changes," Whitaker added. "Being out for fall break, I feel, got us off as a team. We need to keep playing the entire game, not just one or two quarters. Coming out and getting a big lead has helped us in the past few games and we didn't do that this game. We didn't make the big plays that we've been making in the last couple of games."
Cornersville had its chances in the second half as the Bulldogs opened up the third quarter with a drive down to the Eagles end of the field, but it stalled out inside the 20-yard line and another Taylor missed field goal gave the ball back over to Summertown.
After two Eagles touchdowns seemed to bury the Bulldogs, the maroon and white drove down to the 20-yard line and once again gave the ball back to Summertown on a Mitchell interception with six minutes left in the game.
Cornersville got one last shot at a comeback on a Blake Pickett interception of Chapman, but on fourth-and-14 Mitchell was sacked to turn the ball back over to the Eagles, essentially ending the contest.
"After watching film we had several busted assignments up front, and that allowed Summertown's aggressive play up front to be successful," Randolph said. "We also had a touchdown called back inside the red zone after a long drive and I think that took a lot of air out of us."
The Bulldogs, now just 15 points away from being undefeated on the season, will travel to sixth-ranked Columbia Academy (6-0, 6-0) with a chance to jump back up to a first play tie at the top of the region with one-loss Fayetteville and Summertown also squaring off on Friday.
"Our guys know that there is still a lot at stake this year and we can still achieve our team goals," Randolph said. "We are not going to let this loss define our season. We are going to get back to work this week and have a great week of preparation for CA."
Columbia Academy, although undefeated, is not the juggernaut team it has been in past season. The Bulldogs squeaked by Summertown by a touchdown and struggled against one-win Moore County in a 14-point win.
Summertown 0 8 8 8-24
Cornersville 6 7 0 0-13
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 17 run, Ben Taylor PAT
Summertown-Chase Mote 4 run, Bradley Huckaba PAT run
Cornersville-Cameron Whittaker 8 run, Taylor PAT
Summertown-Mote 1 run, Davon Brown pass from Riley Chapman
Summertown-De'Ray Duke 25 run, Dylan Powell pass from Chapman
Total Offense-Summertown 355, Cornersville 303
Passing-Summertown 106, Cornersville 50
Turnovers-Summertown 2, Cornersville 2
Penalties-Summertown 5-50, Cornersville 2-15
First downs-Summertown 16, Cornersville 16
Passing-Henlee Mitchell 5-6-63-INT
Receiving-Eli Woodard 3-52, Peyton Finch 2-11
Rushing-Cameron Whittaker 17-117-TD, Eli Woodard 17-109-TD, Trenten Warren 6-17, Henlee Mitchell 4-(-3)
Passing-Riley Chapman 7-111-INT
Receiving-Chase Moats 3-57, Dylan Powell 2-57, Bradley Huckaba 2-22
Rushing-Chase Moats 19-142-2TD, De'Ray Duke 4-55-TD, Bradley Huckaba 8-39, Riley Chapman 3-8, Wade Park 2-5
Tackles-Eli Woodard 7.5, Brice Dunkleman 4.5, CJ Coble 4, Blake Pickett 3.5 (INT), Ben Taylor 3, Peyton Finch 2.5, Brock Powers 2.5, Devin Baus 2.5, Trenten Warren 2, Dakota Polk 1.5, Andrew Brady 1, Cameron Whittaker .5
Tackles-Clayton White 6.5, Lennox Johnson 6, Mason Williams 4.5 (sack), Scotty Morrison 4.5, John Mark Webb 4, Bradley Huckaba 4, Kevin Hubbuch 3.5, Dylan Powell 3 (INT), Caleb Gardner 3, Wade Park 2.5, Gage Lovett 1
Region 4A Standings
Columbia Academy 6-0 6-0
Summertown 7-1 5-1
Fayetteville 5-2 4-1
Cornersville 4-3 4-1
Huntland 3-4 2-3
Grace Franklin 2-5 2-4
Moore County 1-6 1-4
Richland 1-6 0-5
Mount Pleasant 0-7 0-5