Bulldogs cruise over Lions
Looking at the Bulldogs 2017 schedule, Friday night’s matchup versus Grace Christian-Franklin (1-2, 0-1) was a game that stood out as a potential upset, since Cornersville won a close contest by a mere touchdown last year at Franklin.
Friday night’s contest had no such drama as the Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) scored 28 points after falling behind 8-6 in the first quarter to pick up a huge 39-15 region 5-1A win.
“We knew coming into the game that we would have to contain their skill guys in number three (Kolby Alonzo and 10 (Austin Amor),” Bulldog coach Gerard Randolph said. “Those two, especially Amor, are capable of lighting a scoreboard up, and we knew if we could contain them we would give ourselves a good shot at winning the game.” “Also, we knew we needed to clean up some things from last year when we faced GCA,” Randolph continued.
“We fumbled the football several times and had a bunch of penalties. That almost cost our football team the game last year. Our offense did a really good job of executing our game plan, and our defense was pretty solid for the most part.”
The Bulldogs turned in another above average offensive performance by putting up 440 total yards with 416 coming on the ground.
Cornersville is averaging 45 points per game in its three wins.
Eli Woodard continued to impress after a move from the running back position to quarterback, leading the Bulldogs with 222 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rushing attempts, while passing once for 24 yards to Peyton Finch.
Junior standout Cameron Whitaker turned in a spectacular performance with 105 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries and senior Kolbe McMahon continues to contribute with 56 yards on 10 attempts.
One of the biggest surprises in the Bulldogs early season wins has been Peyton Finch, whom Randolph has used at running back in short yardage and goal line situations.
Finch delivered once again with seven carries for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
Devin Baus led the Bulldogs with 5.5 tackles and Blake Pickett and C.J. Coble finished with four tackles apiece.
The Bulldogs faced a big-time quarterback in Austin Armor, who threw for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 in 2016, and coach Randolph knew that stopping the big play quarterback through the air would be a key component in a 2017 victory.
The secondary, led by Pickett, Woodard, Whitaker, and Darien Bush limited Armor to just 183 yards in the air and the defense line shut down the running game, allowing 73 yards on the ground and just 14 first downs in the contest.
“After watching film over GCA we knew that the quarterback was dangerous at running and throwing the football,” Randolph noted. “During our week of practice we really harped on playing our assignments in the secondary, because they were going to show a lot of RPOs in their offensive scheme.”
“We also challenged our secondary during the week to not give up big plays to their offense, and for the most part I think we did that.”
The Bulldogs struck first as Eli Woodard broke loose for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:02 left in the opening quarter.
The Lions wasted little time wrestling control of the game when Armor hit his brother Josh on a screen pass and he broke loose for a 70-yard score on the first play from scrimmage after the Bulldog touchdown.
The 2-point conversion pass to Jayce Brown gave the Lions their first and only lead of the game at 8-6 with 3:57 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs went to work following the Lions’ touchdown, taking a 12-8 lead on a Finch 5-yard touchdown run, but a missed PAT.
The defense forced a three and out on the Lions’ next possession and the Bulldogs continued to pound the ball down Grace’s throat, with four different Cornersville players touching the ball at least once before a Woodard 27-yard gain set up a 9-yard Whitaker touchdown run and a 20-8 advantage.
The two teams went back and forth in the third quarter before Finch finally gave the Bulldogs some running room with a 7-yard plunge for a 26-8 lead after another failed PAT kick.
The Bulldogs surprised the Lions on the next possession as Woodard hit Finch for a 24-yard completion on the only Cornersville pass attempt of the contest.
Following the completion, the Bulldogs went back to their bread and butter as Woodard carried twice, Finch twice, and Whitaker once.
On the last play in the series, Woodard broke three Lion tackles and popped out in the end zone, which put the game away at 33-8.
The Lions added a touchdown down as the subs shuffled in for the Bulldogs, but Cornersville matched the late score with a 2-yard Whitaker scamper for a 39-15 final.
The road to a first-ever region championship becomes more difficult on Friday as the Bulldogs welcome one-loss Mount Pleasant (3-1, 1-1) to Frog Bottom at 7 p.m.
The Tigers, who were undefeated until a close 33-19 loss to region favorite Fayetteville on Friday, have made a total turnaround since the once powerful program suffered through a one-win season in 2016.
The Bulldogs beat the Tigers 35-20 last season, but Cornersville will have its hands full if the maroon and white want to come out of the game with an unblemished region record.
“Coming into Friday night against Mt. Pleasant will be a huge challenge for our football team,” Randolph stated. “As always Mt. Pleasant will show case a bunch of athletes on their side of the ball. We will need to play assignment football on defense and really rally to the ball with all eleven guys on defense.”
“Mt. Pleasant has a lot of momentum coming into the game this year after starting the year 3-0, and losing a good game to undefeated Fayetteville City,” Randolph continued.
“Offensively, we will have to be very physical up front and control the line of scrimmage. Our backs will have to run the ball tough and take care of it. Defensively, we can’t give up big plays to them, and we have to play fast, physical, and aggressive. They have some skill guys that can change the game in a blink of an eye.”
Grace Christian 8 0 0 7-15
Cornersville 6 14 6 13-39
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 15-yard run, PAT NG
Grace Christian-Austin Armor 7-yard pass from Josh Armor, Jayce Brown PAT pass from Josh Armor
Cornersville-Peyton Finch 5-yard run, PAT NG
Cornersville-Cameron Whittaker 9-yard run, Woodard PAT run
Cornersville-Finch 7-yard run, PAT NG
Cornersville-Woodard 23-yard run, Adam Qualls PAT
Grace Christian-Gabriel Buzek 4-yard pass from Austin Armor, PAT NG
Cornersville-Whittaker 2-yard run, PAT NG
Total yards-Grace Christian 256, Cornersville 440
Rushing-Grace Christian 73, Cornersville 416
Passing-Grace Christian 183, Cornersville 24
First downs-Grace Christian 14, Cornersville 27
Penalties-Grace Christian 5-45, Cornersville 11-95
Turnovers-Grace Christian 2, Cornersville 2
Rushing-Eli Woodard 27-222-2TD, Cameron Whittaker 16-105-2TD, Kolbe McMahon 10-56, Peyton Finch 7-33-2TD
Passing-Eli Woodard 1-1-24
Receiving-Peyton Finch 1-24
Tackles-Devin Baus 5.5, Blake Pickett 4, CJ Coble 4, Eli Woodard 3.5, Kolbe McMahon 3, Brock Powers 3 (1.5 SACKS), Peyton Finch 3, TJ Robinson 1.5, Cameron Whittaker 1.5 (INT), Brice Dunkleman 1, Wes Calahan 1, Cameron Estes 1, Houston Williams 1 (.5 SACK), Brady Calahan .5, Darien Bush .5
PAT-Adam Qualls 1-3
Kickoffs-Kolbe McMahon 1-28, Bryce Hagan 1-0
Punts-Eli Woodard 1-18