Non-Region games fill Friday night slate
After a couple of weeks of banging helmets with region opponents that set the stage for the second half of the season, Week 6 is full of non-region games for all three Marshall County football programs.
The Cornersville Bulldogs may be a surprise to many outside of the area and not getting any respect from the pollsters or pundits, but inside Frog Bottom the team is full of confidence and believe that they are now the favorites to win Region 5A, even if they don’t want to trumpet it.
“The guys are extremely proud and humbled,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “As a staff we ask a lot of these young men on a daily basis and our preparation is very physically demanding.”
“They know there is still a ton of football to play, so we can't be satisfied with where we are at. We have to stay focused and keep pushing toward our goals.”
The Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak, all over region opponents that has catapulted Cornersville (4-1, 3-0) to first place in the Region 5A standings.
A win next week at Fayetteville (4-1, 2-1) would go a long way to securing first place, but first the Bulldogs have to negotiate Homecoming and a game with Perry County tonight.
We remind the guys every day that this Perry County team is very capable of spoiling our Homecoming this year if we don't come out focused and ready to play,” Randolph said. “We want the guys to enjoy Homecoming, but understand that at the end of the day we have a football game to try and win.”
Last week’s win over Mt. Pleasant was a signature triumph for Randolph’s squad that overcame an early deficit before bulldozing the Tigers 42-20.
“It was a really big win for our program this past Friday night against Mt. Pleasant,” Randolph said. “As a staff we were very happy and very fortunate to be able to come away with the big region win.”
“The guys did show some resiliency in being able to fight against adversity and be able to find a way to come back and win a huge region game.”
In the three region wins, Cornersville has outscored their opponents by a huge 123-35 margin with an offense that has put up 1,755 yards, mostly in a 1,531 yard rushing attack.
Leading the way is sophomore quarterback Eli Woodard, who has 775 yards on 89 carries for an impressive 8.7 average per carry.
“He will be the first to tell you that none of this is possible without the support and blocking of his teammates,” Randolph stated. “He definitely makes us a better football team and we are glad to have him in a Bulldog uniform.”
Woodard also leads the team with 9 rushing touchdowns and has scored twice on defense, returning two fumbles for TDs.
“Eli is a very special football player for our football team,” Randolph said. “It is very hard to find anyone as more competitive than this young man. He is a student athlete that is hard-nosed and really understands the game of football.”
While Cornersville sports the most prolific offense in Region 5A, they also have allowed the least amount of points in the first five games, giving up 16 points per game.
The Bulldogs defense gets better as the game goes on as they have given up just 29 second half points, including six in their comeback win last week versus Mt. Pleasant.
“The defense never gave up even after facing some early adversity we were able to come up with two key turnovers in the first half that stalled drives for their offense,” Randolph said. “Mt. Pleasant was able to gash our defense for chunks of yardage early in the first half, but after we made some halftime adjustments the guys did a much better job of containing their explosive athletes.”
“I was proud that the defense only allowed their offense to score once, but we have to do a better job of making plays on the ball when it is in the air. At the end of the day we were happy with getting the win.”
Perry County may be winless, but they are a dangerous team that has improved every week and Randolph and the Bulldogs have too much at stake to overlook the Vikings.
“This Perry County team is getting better each and every time that they take the field, they are big and physical and do a good job of running a balanced attack on offense,” Randolph stated. “Defensively, they like to be physical up front and they have a lot of size with their defensive front. We will have to match their physical approach to the game and play at a high level.”
The Marshall County Tigers came off a bye week and secured a big Region 4/4A 26-12 win at Maplewood thanks to a big defensive effort.
“Our defense no doubt played our best game of the year,” Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. “After a couple first half adjustments our ‘D’ played lights out in the second half. I think our team strength and year round conditioning program really showed in the second half.”
Garnering a second half defensive shutout on the road in Nashville versus the Panthers was huge and not easy to do and the effort was complimented by a solid offensive performance and some key special team plays.
“It was a great team win Friday, even more so it was a huge win as far as the region standings are concerned,” Osteen said. “We are most proud as a staff of the way we played complimentary football.”
“All three phases of the game played a huge role in us coming home from Nashville with the win.”
Tiger running back Kamron Liggett continued his stellar senior season at Maplewood, rushing for 114 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns to bring his season totals to 477 yards and a dozen TDs.
Liggett also set the Marshall County High School all-time career record for touchdowns in the game on his 56th career entrance into the end zone.
“Kamron has been extremely productive for four years now,” Osteen said. “His vision and knack for finding the end zone are very special.”
The Tiger offense has been solid with a balanced attack of Liggett’s runs and quarterback Bryce Wallace’s effective junior campaign.
Wallace has not thrown an interception all year and has a .560 completion percentage, throwing for 498 yards and five touchdowns.
Offensively we were not perfect, but we made the plays that we had to and most importantly we protected the football all night,” Osteen said about the Maplewood game. “But maybe most significantly our special teams were huge on Friday.”
Huge they were and huge they have been all year as senior Caleb Estes nailed two important field goals last week and went 6-for-6 on kickoff touchbacks, bringing his season total to 21-of-26.
Estes is also 15-of-16 on PATS and has punted the rock nine times for a 34.6 average and has pinned the opponents inside the 20-yard line three times.
The Tigers (3-1, 2-1) hit the road to Music City once again this week for a non-region matchup when they travel to Pearl Cohn (3-2, 1-0) to face a Firebirds squad that are a perennial playoff contender.
“Our guys are extremely excited about the opportunity to play a program as great as Pearl Cohn's, they have been a state power for many years now,” Osteen said. “This game is not a region game and is not going to define our season no matter the outcome, but it provides us with a great litmus test of where we are at as a team against a top tier competition.”
While the Bulldogs and Tigers are climbing the region standings, the Forrest Rockets are sinking after a tough 14-6 loss at Columbia Academy last week.
“I thought out kids played extremely hard all night and that coach (Eli) Stephenson had a great defensive game plan.” Forrest coach Brent Johns said. “We just didn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities when we had them.”
Forrest has shot themselves in the foot several times this year and sit at 1-4 overall and 1-2 in Region 5/2A play.
The Rockets travel to Watertown (3-2, 1-1) this week in a non-region game versus the Purple Tigers who will be looking to avenge back-to-back losses to Forrest when they were both in the same region until this season.
“The Watertown rivalry is big for our guys and a win would be a big confidence booster,” Johns said. “We are friends with their coaching staff and I know they’ve had this game circled all offseason.”
Asked how his team reacted to the heartbreaking loss at CA, Johns said, “The guys bounced back yesterday once we started watching Watertown film and preparing for this week.”
It will be one game at a time for Forrest, who has the talent and the ability to bounce back and make a late season run to the playoffs.
“We just need to worry about winning the Watertown game right now, the playoffs are a long time away,” Johns stated.
The Rockets have learned football’s most valuable lesson the hard way this year that whichever team makes the fewest mistakes more than likely will win the game and Johns knows that is the most important correction Forrest needs to make if they want to get back to their winning ways.
“Eliminate penalties,” Johns said. “And cut out the small missed blocking assignments and stick to our blocks longer.”