Frog Bottom ready for Falcons

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Bulldogs pulled through in double overtime against Huntingdon last Friday night in perhaps the best game ever played at Frog Bottom but as sweet as that victory was, Cornersville has a better matchup this Friday night.

Lake County High School, from Tiptonville, will make the three hour and 37 minute drive to Cornersville with a berth to the 2017 1A state championship game in Cookeville on the line.

But for a team like the Bulldogs, coach Gerard Randolph will follow the game plan that has gotten his team this far-- not overlooking any opponent.

The Cornersville Bulldogs run out versus Huntingdon in last week’s double overtime win.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

"We approach this game like we have all year as "The biggest game that they have ever played in!," Randolph emphasized. "We continue to let the guys know that they are in a really good place right now. Their job is to finish the deal!"

"We have goals for this team and Lake County stands in the way of our goals." Randolph added. "The guys are hungry and I truly believe that they want to go out and compete at a high level each and every Friday night."

Although many football pundits declared Huntingdon 'the team to beat' coming into the game, the Falcons (11-2) are a worthy opponent worth worrying about before thinking of a trip to Cookeville.

"I have had the opportunity to watch quite a bit of film on Lake County," Randolph stated. "They are a big and extremely athletic football team. They are in the semifinals for a reason, and that's because they are deserving."

"They are multiple on offense and will line up in several different offensive schemes," Randolph continued. "They are really big and athletic up front in the trenches. They also have several play makers on the offensive side of the ball. They are led by their quarterback Tanner Snyder who is 6'3 200 lbs. and is a true dual threat guy. He can throw it and pull it down to run it. Defensively, they are led by senior all-state Linebacker James Nobles. He is very active on the defensive side of the ball and poses a big time threat to our offense."

Snyder played a big part in the Falcons 35-6 thrashing over Hillcrest (8-5) last Friday.

Snyder finished with 111 passing yards for two touchdowns and one interception, but the big threat against the Bulldogs will be running back Desmon Johnson, who ran all over the Vikings for 223 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries.

The Falcons also got production from tight end Campbell Puckett (3 receptions, 58 yards, TD) and running back Larry Tubbs, who turned a short screen pass into a 27-yard gain to set up a 7-yard Johnson score on the ground.

On the defensive side Keyshawn Gross led the Falcons with four tackles and a tackle for a loss. Defensive lineman Frankie Mayes had three tackles and two tackles for a loss, and Nobles added 1.5 tackles, one tackle for a loss, and a sack.

The Falcons held a Viking team that came in the contest averaging 24 points per game to just six points.

Lake County won the line of scrimmage in a big way against Hillcrest, out gaining the Vikings 403 yards to 70 yards.

Hillcrest had advanced to the quarterfinals with an upset that set shock waves throughout 1A, a 6-0 win over 2016 state champion and 2017 favorite Dresden.

Most had picked a Dresden-Huntingdon showdown in the semifinals.

Both Lake County and Cornersville had other plans.

The Falcons average 37 points per contest, while holding opponents to a meager 13 points per game and scored at least 30 points in seven out of eight regular season wins.

Lake County's two losses came against Dresden (10-2) by a score of 33-24 and 2A Trinity Christian Academy, 16-13.

Lake County is the third tradition-rich West Tennessee team the Bulldogs have faced in the 2017 playoffs with wins over Huntingdon (65 playoff games, four finals appearances, 2003 championship) and Bruceton Central (68 playoff games, three finals, 1989 championship).

The Lake County Falcons claim an illustrious history with a 40-31 all-time playoff record, a 5-4 semi-final mark, and are 2-3 in state championship games.

Lake County lost the 1977 1A championship 33-7 to Alcoa, the 1979 1A championship 13-9 against Alcoa, and the 1994 1A championship contest 14-7 versus South Pittsburg.

The Falcons were crowned champions of 1A in 1980 with a 20-6 win over Meigs County and 1985 with a 20-12 victory over South Pittsburg.

The Falcons were 0-5 in the last five quarterfinal appearances before Friday night’s win over Hillcrest with its last semifinal appearance a 1995 loss to Bruceton Central.

The Bulldogs and Falcons will be meeting for the first time ever on Friday night.

The Bulldogs pulled the upset of the 2017, perhaps in all classes, with the 21-20 double OT win over then undefeated Huntingdon.

And the big difference was the passing game as quarterback Eli Woodard hit running back Kolbe McMahon for two long touchdowns for 126 yards after only throwing for 40 total passing yards the first two postseason games.

Cornersville head coach Gerard Randolph (left) has the Bulldogs poised and ready to go this week versus Lake County in a Class A semifinal at Frog Bottom.

"I will say that we work on our passing game quite a bit at practice every day," Randolph explained. "We have been fortunate to where we have been able to move the chains and eat clock up by running the football at a high level. We knew there would be a time where we would need to be able to throw the football, and it was evident this past Friday night."

"We hang our hat on being a physical football ball team that likes to run the football," Randolph added. "We will continue to do that and if we have to throw the football we will be prepared to do that. It was definitely encouraging this past week with Eli being able to connect on two big TD passes to Kolbe McMahon."

The Mustangs were able to contain 1,000-plus yard rusher Cameron Whitaker to just 19 yards on six attempts and 900-plus yard rusher McMahon to a mere 18 yards on seven attempts but like most other Bulldog games, the opponent has to pick its poison.

While doing a great job shutting down McMahon and Whitaker, Woodard broke free for 120 yards and a score on just 22 carries.

And once the Bulldogs were able to stop Mr. Football finalist Kade Pearson on the first play from scrimmage, the junior quarterback knew that the Bulldogs were going to be in the game for the long haul.

"To be honest (pulling the upset) hit me the first play they were on offense when they only got a yard and that was their bread and butter play," Woodard recalled. "We stopped it so I knew we had a chance and I knew we had a chance the day we found out we were playing them .We all had confidence in winning that game and that's all we needed. All the negativity towards us just put gasoline to the fire. History isn't done yet."