Bulldogs fall at Eagleville
The Cornersville Bulldogs were a mere four points away from starting the 2016 season out 6-0 after two last minute, heartbreaking losses (Mount Juliet Christian three points, Collinwood one point) in back-to-back games.
The element of surprise is not an option for the Bulldogs (1-1) in 2017 as the program has been a fashionable preseason pick to win its first ever region championship and has quickly gone from being the hunter to the hunted.
That momentum only grew after an eye opening 55-14 win against 2A Community in Week 1, but perhaps the biggest test on the 2017 schedule loomed on Friday as the Bulldogs traveled to 2A Eagleville looking to start a season 2-0 for the first time since the 2007 season.
The Eagles had undefeated plans of its own and those plans did not include being upset by Cornersville as Eagleville (2-0) glided to an anticlimactic 31-6 win.
"That's a good ball team over there," Bulldog third-year coach Gerard Randolph said about Eagleville. "They did everything they were supposed to do to keep us in check."
"They had a great game plan, they knew what we were doing offensively and they executed defensively, so hats off to them."
The two squads met for the first time since a lopsided 61-12 Eagles’ win in 2004, a year removed from Eagleville winning the first varsity game in its history over the Bulldogs, 38-7, for its only win of the season.
This time however, the Bulldogs gave the Eagles much more of a fight, pulling to within 7-6 less than a minute into the second quarter.
The Eagles led by two scores (21-6) at the half, but the Bulldogs could not get its usually high powered offense going, gaining just 155 total yards against 423 for the Rutherford County squad.
Cam Whitaker led the Bulldogs with 51 yards on six rushing attempts, two receptions for 16 yards, and 87 return yards on three kickoffs.
Eli Woodard added 18 rushing yards, 22 receiving yards, 19 return yards, and four tackles on defense while Kolbe McMahon chipped in 21 yards on one kickoff return and 12 receiving yards.
Bulldog quarterback Henlee Mitchell finished the night 7-for-13 for 53 yards and an interception while backup Jackson Farlar hit one target for 11 yards before adding 23 yards on the ground on two attempts.
Devin Baus led the Bulldog defense with nine tackles with one tackle for a loss, Blake Pickett chipped in six tackles, and Brock Powers was a beast in the middle with three and a half tackles, one tackle for a loss, and one sack.
After the Eagles marched downfield for a touchdown on its second possession of the game, the Bulldogs were able to answer on a powerful run for do-everything back Whitaker.
When a second and goal produced no gain, the Bulldogs once again went to Whitaker, who went left and met the majority of the Eagles defense before slipping four tackles and flying over an Eagleville defensive back for the diving touchdown.
The extra point, however, was wide to the left and the Eagles maintained the 7-6 lead with 11:20 left in the first half.
On the next possession Eagle quarterback Ethan Cobb hooked up with Graham Hatcher for 37 yards and a 14-6 lead just over one minute later.
Cobb hooked up with Hatcher nine times before the night was over.
The Bulldogs handed the ball back to the Eagles on one of many three-and-outs on the night, but Baus gave Cornersville another chance by recovering an Eagleville fumble on the 35-yard line, putting the visitors in prime position to tie the game before the half.
But after a five-yard run by Woodard was followed by a two-yard Woodard loss, Mitchell was sacked for a five-yard loss and an incomplete pass on fourth down returned the ball to the Eagles in better position than when the home team lost the original fumble.
The Eagles then set up a 60-plus yard drive, complimented by a 39-yard Cobb scramble to set-up the third Eagleville touchdown of the half and put the maroon and white up 21-6 heading into the half.
"I told them to just stay focused," Randolph said about his halftime advice. "We were only down two touchdowns and we've been able to make plays. You know, one play could turn this game around."
The Eagles started off the second half with possession and the Bulldogs managed the stall the Eagleville drive at the 20-yard line after which the home squad settled for a field goal and a 24-6 lead.
Still within striking distance midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs regained control of the ball but could not find any plays to jump start the offense.
The Eagles tacked on one last touchdown with just under 10 minutes remaining in the final period, putting the Bulldogs over three scores behind to all but seal the deal.
"We're going to do our part as the coaching staff to make sure our players don't dwell on this loss," Randolph explained. "We go into region play next week. Yes, we want to win every game but we've got to get this game out of our system right now and turn our focus to Moore County next week and go in to try and win a big region game."
The Bulldogs snapped a five-game losing streak to the Raiders (2-0) last season with a 39-14 win, but were outscored 179-70 during the losing streak.
The two squads enter region play for the first time this season with each having easily beat Community and the Raiders upsetting 2A Cascade in the season opener.
Moore County and Cornersville will square off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Lynchburg.
Cornersville 0 6 0 0-6
Eagleville 7 14 3 7-31
Eagleville-Josh Stout 7-yard run, Jonathon Vermillion PAT
Cornersville-Cameron Whittaker 5-yard run, PAT NG
Eagleville-Graham Hatcher 12-yard pass from Ethan Cobb, PAT NG
Eagleville-Cobb 9-yard run, Vermillion PAT
Vermillion 36-yard FG
Eagleville-Avery Sparks 12-yard pass from Cobb, Vermillion PAT
Total yards-Cornersville 155, Eagleville 423
Rushing-Cornersville 91, Eagleville 262
Passing-Cornersville 64, Eagleville 161
First Downs-Cornersville 9, Eagleville 24
Penalties/Yards-Cornersville 5-30, Eagleville 8-70
Turnovers-Cornersville 2, Eagleville 2
Rushing-Cameron Whittaker 6-51-TD, Jackson Farler 2-23, Eli Woodard 9-18, Brady Calahan 2-3, Kolbe McMahon 1-3, Wes Calahan 1-2, Henlee Mitchell 3-(-9)
Passing-Henlee Mitchell 7-13-53-INT, Jackson Farler 1-1-11
Receiving-Eli Woodard 3-22, Cameron Whittaker 2-16, Kolbe McMahon 1-12, Peyton Finch 1-11
Tackles-Devin Baus 9, Blake Pickett 6, CJ Coble 5.5, Eli Woodard 4, Darien Bush 4, Cameron Whittaker 3.5, Brock Powers 3.5 (SACK), Peyton Finch 2, Devin Massengill 2, Kolbe McMahon 2, Ryan Prosser, Jacob Brooks .5
PAT-Adam Qualls 0-1
Punting-Peyton Finch 5-131
Kickoff Returns-Cameron Whittaker 3-87, Kolbe McMahon 1-21, Eli Woodard 1-19, Peyton Finch 1-5