Seventh-ranked Bulldogs going for 10 wins in a row

Friday, November 10, 2017
The Cornersville defense has been stout all year and they are looking to shut down the Grace Christian-Franklin Lions tonight at Frog Bottom in the second round of the Class A playoffs.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Now that the hype of hosting its first ever home playoff football game and winning the game has died down, the Bulldogs can now turn its full attention to making a deep playoff run.

The next opponent standing in its way is a familiar one- Grace Christian Academy Franklin (6-4).

The Lions shocked the mid-state with a 64-24 thumping of 1A powerhouse Wayne County (7-4), a semi-finalist in last season's playoffs, for its first ever playoff win in its first playoff appearance.

The Wildcats compiled a 41-9 record over the past four seasons with a 1A state championship in 2011.

That history did not seem to intimidate the Lions, winners of its past four games.

The Lions out gained the Wildcats 457 yards to 264 yards on offense, ran 56 plays to the Wildcats 41, led time of possession 29:38 to 18:22, gained 22 first downs to 10 for Wayne County and perhaps the most important stat, turned the ball over just once compared to five Wildcat turnovers.

"I am not surprised at all that Grace won the ball game at Wayne Co," Bulldog coach Gerard Randolph stated. "Grace is a really good football team that is playing some really good football right now. They are a well-coached team that plays really hard to the last whistle."

"They are led by quarterback Austin Armor, one of the best quarterbacks in the whole state," Randolph stated. "It's going to be a major challenge for our guys this Friday night. I think it shows how tough Region 5-1A is, and the caliber teams that represent this region. It's going to be tough for both teams, because we have seen each other this year, and both teams really want to win and advance."

The Lions entered the 2017 season with just five total program wins over two seasons of existence and this season started much the same way with just one win in the first four games, including a 26-22 loss to lowly Richland (2-8).

But a 27-7 win at McEwen sparked a fire inside the Lions, who went on to win four of its last five games entering the postseason, including upset wins over Mount Pleasant (7-3) and Fayetteville (6-4).

After failing to score more than 28 points in its first six games the Lions put up 130 points over its final three regular season games before tallying 64 against the Wildcats, who had given up over 28 points just one time all season.

"We have had the opportunity to watch and study quite a bit of film on Grace this week and they are playing some really good football," Randolph said. "Grace has always been an explosive team, and I think those 16 seniors have put the team on their back and they are playing at a really high level. Coach (Rusty) Smith and his staff do a really good job of getting those guys ready to play and compete."

"We will have to bring our ‘A’ game this Friday night," Randolph continued. "We have to play mistake free football and try to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I have challenged our defense to step it up big time this week. We will definitely have our hands full trying to contain Austin Amor."

Amor saved one of his best games of the season for Wayne County, throwing for 186 yards and two scores on 13-21 attempts, but killed the Wildcats on the ground with 168 yards on 18 attempts for five touchdowns.

The senior quarterback does a little bit of everything for the Lions, throwing for 1,407 yards and 12 TD's on 100-of-168 tries. Amor has thrown for 11 interceptions, his only visible flaw.

Amor has also carried the ball 158 times for 1,131 yards and 25 more touchdowns while returning punts 10 times for 170 yards, returning kicks 18 times for 269 yards and catching five passes for 52 yards and a score.

If all of that was not enough, Amor also punts for the Lions, averaging 30 yards per punt with two inside the 20 yard line.

Fellow senior Kolby Alonzo came up huge against the Wildcats by running for 59 yards and a score on just four totes, caught two balls for 64 yards and two touchdowns and added three tackles and a pick on defense.

Alonzo is a huge component of the Lions offense with 629 receiving yards and six touchdowns while adding 40.5 tackles six tackles for a loss, a sack, and an interception on defense.

Junior Gabriel Buzek rushed eight times for 41 yards and led the team with five tackles and an interception last Friday.

On the year Buzek has rushed for 214 yards on 20 carries and caught 11 balls for 90 yards and a score on offense.

The Lions' other weapons on offense are senior Jayce Brown (14 rec. 183 yds. 2 TDs), tight end Cole Scott (12 rec. 198 yds., 3 TDSs) and sophomore Andrew Bramlett (57 carries, 435 yards, 2 TDs).

Amor is grooming his younger brother, Josh, to take his place when next season begins.

The younger Amor is 3-of-3 in the air for 55 yards and a score while rushing 29 times for 155 yards and one TD, and has caught 10 passes for 83 yards.

On defense, the leader of the group is senior Oliver Jones who has 65.5 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, and five sacks.

Brown adds 12.5 tackles, one tackle for a loss and a team-high two interceptions while the younger Amor chips in 25 tackles with two for a loss.

The Bulldogs are 3-0 all-time versus the Lions with close games in 2015 (30-27), 2016 (35-28), and a 39-15 Bulldog win 2017.

The two squads could not be more different with the Lions running a fast paced spread offense and the Bulldogs opting for a power running attack and pass sprinkled in every now and then to keep the opponents defense honest.

"It's really going to depend on whose defense can make stops in crucial situations," Randolph pointed out. "GCA likes to score fast and often and we want to run the ball well and control the sticks and time of possession. We want to keep their offense of the field as much as possible. If we can run the ball well, eliminate turnovers, and play really good defense I like our chances."

The Bulldogs jumped out on a hapless Bruceton Central squad from the start of the opening whistle last week.

The Bulldogs forced a safety within the first half minute before running up a 31-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Lions brain trust will have a hard time deciding on which Bulldog running back to key in on.

Running back Cam Whitaker and quarterback Eli Woodard have each ran for more than 1,000 yards on the season, while senior Kolbe McMahon pushed his season total to over 800 yards with a 111-yard performance against the Tigers.

Trenten Warren, Peyton Finch, and Darien Bush have all rushed for over 200 yards on the season while freshman running back Brady Calahan added 64 yards on the ground last Friday.

When the Tigers started to key in on the Bulldogs running attack, Woodard punished Bruceton with a 37-yard bomb to Finch for the only passing play of the game for Cornersville, which resulted in a score.

The Bulldogs scored in its first seven drives of the game and the first string defense allowed just 53 yards to the Tigers before the reserves started to trickle into the game.

One thing is for sure--the Bulldogs are going to put up some points. Cornersville have scored at least 36 points in its 10 wins and have put up over 40 points in four games and over 50 points in three games.

Cornersville is riding a nine game winning streak into Friday night which will be played at home in Frog Bottom, perhaps the biggest weapon of all.

Every seat at the stadium was filled last Friday, including two sets of overflow bleachers brought in for the playoffs and the cheers were so loud fans could barely hear the person sitting next to them.

"The crowd and atmosphere was awesome this past Friday night," Randolph said. "The student section did a great job of cheering the guys on, and we are very appreciative for that. We will need that same kind of environment and more this Friday night. We truly appreciate all of BULLDOG NATION for their support!"

The winner of tonight’s contest will host the winner of the #1 versus #2 matchup of Huntingdon (11-0) and Moore County (8-3).

Huntingdon is the unanimous number one ranked team in 1A and the Bulldogs beat Moore County 42-0 in week three of the regular season.

Bulldog fans should expect a closer ballgame than last week but Cornersville will ride on to the quarterfinals next Friday.