Bulldogs win double overtime thriller!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Adam Qualls lines up for the game winning extra point in the second overtime.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The 2017 Cornersville football season has been a season of extreme highs and great lows, a season that brought not just the football team together, but the entire small town in southern Marshall County.

And with a missed extra point and a made extra point, a season filled with emotion was spilled onto the field following the 21-20 upset over Huntingdon, the number-two ranked team in all of 1A.

Following the sudden death of would-be sophomore Bryan Giles, the football team dedicated the season in his memory and this group of Bulldogs, a great bunch both on and off the field, continue to shine a light in the face of tragedy.

"His team, coaches, and community has come together and formed an unbreakable bond since the accident," Bulldog coach Gerard Randolph stated. "We loss such a wonderful young man, and we will never ever forget what he meant to this program and community."

"This team has definitely played their hearts out for him and his family," Randolph added. "As a coach losing such a wonderful young man was really hard for me. It was something that my coaches and I had never dealt with. I can say that it really brought this team closer, and we have dedicated this season to a wonderful young man and his family."

The double overtime thriller in front of a jam-packed Frog Bottom crowd was brought to a head when senior kicker Adam Qualls kicked his third extra point of the night for the game winner just minutes after he missed an 18-yard field goal in the initial overtime period.

"I had been going through every situation I could think of in my head but when it came down to it everything was perfect," Henlee Mitchell, who held the ball on the winning kick, stated. "Field goals and extra points are more important than anyone ever thought and it showed in this game. Couldn’t be any more proud of my team, we battled through adversity to knock off the top ranked team."

The play was set up following a missed extra point by Huntingdon kicker Cole Edwards and on the first Cornersville possession of the second overtime, Bulldog Eli Woodard ran for an 8-yard gain to put the Bulldogs two yards away from tying the game.

"Pretty amazing moment for me when I got the ball on first down and got it to the two I knew we were gonna score," Woodard, who led the Bulldogs with 120 rushing yards, recalled. "I didn't get in at first, I got almost to the line and then my whole team started to push me in with all their effort and it was almost a relief when we had scored because they had scored and missed the extra point in double overtime so I knew it was meant to be."

The Huntingdon coach called a timeout right before the extra point to try and ice Qualls, but the senior kicker nailed the kick to send the maroon and white crowd into a frenzy as all of the home bleachers emptied on the field in celebration.

"The atmosphere this year in the playoffs has been so amazing!" Randolph exclaimed. "I can't say enough about how supportive this community has been for this football program. I can definitely say it has been a TRUE advantage having such an electric atmosphere to play in during these playoffs. This team deserves it and the community deserves this incredible run."

The Bulldogs have one more chance to fill up Frog Bottom when Lake County (11-2) invades Cornersville (12-1) with a 1A state championship berth on the line.

The Falcons beat upstart Hillcrest (8-5) 35-6 in Memphis at Melrose High School to gain the semifinal berth.

The Mustangs (12-1) came into the contest averaging 360 rushing yards and 69 receiving yards per game, but the Bulldogs defense, led by junior linebacker Trenten Warren with 9.5 tackles, held Huntingdon to 273 yards on the ground and just 49 yards in the air.

The Bulldogs also held Mustang running back Tyrese Mebrane, who came into the game with 1,167 yards and three scores on 94 carries, to just 15 yards on 10 attempts.

Mebrane had averaged 97.3 yards per game on 12.4 yards per carry.

Cornersville linebacker Devin Baus (65) chases down Huntingdon quarterback Konner Pearson in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs also held Mr. Football Finalist Kade Pearson to 4-of-17 passing attempts for just 29 percent completion rate, without a score and 154 yards on 30 attempts for just 5.1 yards per carry and no touchdowns

The senior quarterback had thrown for 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions with a 54 percent completion rate on the year, while rushing for 16 more touchdowns on the ground.

Woodard, the Bulldog's junior quarterback, rushed for 120 yards on 22 attempts for 5.5 yards per carry, one rushing touchdown, 12 kick return yards, seven tackles, 126 passing yards, and two scores on 2-of-4 passing attempts.

The Mustangs finished with 22 first downs to the Bulldogs 12, but Huntingdon completed just 6-of-15 third-down attempts and 0-for-4 fourth-down attempts, while the Bulldogs completed 4-of-8 third down tries 0-for-1 on fourth-downs.

The Mustangs also controlled time of possession with 36 minutes to the Bulldogs 12, but Huntingdon was unable to put the ball into scoring position after crossing midfield.

Woodard put the Bulldogs up early with a 60-yard touchdown strike to McMahon which put the Bulldogs up 7-0 after a Qualls PAT at 3:58 of the first quarter.

"Coach (Aaron) Pitts called a great play because they been coming up all night for the run," McMahon recalled. "Eli threw a beautiful pass."

The two teams battled back and forth for the rest of the first half, but ultimately went into the break with the Bulldogs holding the slight 7-0 edge.

"My first thought going into halftime was that I knew we had left points on the board," Randolph said. "We had a very good opportunity to go up 14-0 in the first half and unfortunately we were not able to capitalize on it."

"I also felt pretty good that we had held one of the more high scoring and explosive offenses in the state to zero points in the first half," Randolph continued. "I told the guys that we need to win the second half. We knew that we would need to play much better in the second half if we wanted to win this game."

That slight lead was cut down on the first play of the second half as Hunter Ensley ran the kickoff to the house, but a missed PAT by Edwards left the Bulldogs in front, 7-6.

Mebane finally got into the end zone with 4:26 left in the quarter and followed with a two-point conversion run to push the lead to 14-7 and the Bulldogs Cinderella story seemed to be nearing an end.

After the squads traded three-and-outs, the Bulldogs reclaimed possession with just under a minute left in the third quarter.

Kolbe McMahon races to the end zone, tying the game in the third quarter versus Huntingdon.

Following a Darien Bush one-yard run, Woodard set up and threw a 66-yard bomb to a streaking McMahon for the second touchdown on the night through the air after Woodard had only thrown two touchdowns throughout the regular season.

"They were still coming up for the run and when I caught the ball I had one guy to beat and I knew had to score to tie the game," McMahon, who finished the game with 169 all-purpose yards, recalled.

The score knotted the game at 14 heading into the final quarter.

"Honestly, we thought that Huntingdon would stack the box on us and they did," Randolph said. "They had eight, nine and sometimes 10 men in the box. So we knew we would have to be able to throw the football to have any success against their defense. We just took the approach that we will continue to try and run the football, but we also knew we would have to take what the defense gives us."

The Bulldogs stood tall on a Huntingdon fourth-and-five on the Bulldog's 34-yard line with the game winding down, but the Mustangs returned the favor and the game headed into overtime tied at 14-14.

The Bulldogs went first in overtime but got little more than one yard, forcing Qualls to attempt a field goal that went wide left.

The Mustangs first play in overtime went for seven yards and for the second time on the night, the Bulldogs looked doomed.

But the defense shut down the Mustang offense on the next two plays with the second resulted in a fumble to essentially end the initial overtime still tied.

"I was extremely happy with the way the defense bowed our backs and kept them out of the end zone when it really mattered," Randolph stated. "Anytime that you can keep such a high powered offense from crossing the goal line in key situations is always a plus."

Bulldog quarterback Eli Woodard gets ready to take the snap from center Brock Powers before Woodard scored a touchdown in the second overtime.

The second overtime and Qualls kick will go down in notoriety as the play that sent the Bulldogs to the semifinals for the first time in school history.

The Bulldogs take on Lake County for the chance at a championship berth in Cookeville against either Greenback (11-1) or a rematch with South Pittsburg (13-0).

The Cherokees beat Coalfield (11-2) 56-34 in the quarters and the Pirates took out Whitwell (11-2) 33-7 in the other eastern quarterfinal.

South Pittsburg knocked Cornersville out of the 2016 playoffs in the opening round 62-12 in South Pittsburg.

Huntingdon 0 0 14 0 0 6-20

Cornersville 7 0 7 0 0 7-21

Scoring

First Quarter

Cornersville-Kolbe McMahon 60-yard pass from Eli Woodard, Adam Qualls PAT

Third Quarter

Huntingdon-Hunter Ensley 90-yard kickoff return, Tyrese Mebane PAT, NG

Huntingdon-Mebane 4-yard run, Mebane 2-point run

Cornersville-McMahon 66-yard pass from Woodard, Qualls PAT

Second Overtime

Huntingdon- Elijah Wilkerson 11-yard run, Cole Edwards PAT NG

Cornersville-Woodard 2-yard run, Qualls PAT

Total Offense-Huntingdon 322, Cornersville 275

Rushing-Huntingdon 273, Cornersville 149

Passing-Huntingdon 49, Cornersville 126

First Downs-Huntingdon 22, Cornersville 12

Third Down Conversions-Huntingdon 6-15, Cornersville 4-8

Fourth Down Conversions-Huntingdon 0-4, Cornersville 0-1

Turnovers-Huntingdon 2, Cornersville 1

Penalties-Huntingdon 8-55, Cornersville 4-25

Rushing

Cornersville-Eli Woodard 22-120-TD, Cameron Whitaker 6-19, Kolbe McMahon 7-18, Trenten Warren 1-2, Darien Bush 1-1

Huntingdon-Konner Pearson 30-154, Elijah Wilkerson 7-78-TD, Brandon Lawton 4-19, Tyrese Mebane 10-15-TD, Daquon Robinson 2-7

Passing

Cornersville-Woodard 2-4-126-2TD

Huntingdon-Pearson 4-17-49

Receiving

Cornersville-McMahon 2-126-2TD

Huntingdon-Mebane 2-26, Wilkerson 2-23

Kick Returns

Kickoffs

Cornersville-McMahon 1-25, Whitaker 1-20, Woodard 1-12

Huntingdon- Hunter Ensley 2-103-TD, Robinson 1-44

Cornersville Kicking

Field Goals-Adam Qualls 0-1

PAT-Adam Qualls 3-3

Punting-Kolbe McMahon 5-197-39.4

Cornersville Defense

Tackles-Trenten Warren 9.5, Darien Bush 9, Eli Woodard 7, Devin Baus 5, Cameron Whitaker 5, Kolby McMahon 3.5, Blake Pickett 2.5, CJ Coble 2, Brice Dunkleman 2, Brock Powers 2, Peyton Finch 1