Rocket alumni win Battle of North and South

Friday, August 24, 2018
The two squads come together after the game.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The guys just wanted to play football and that’s what they did Saturday night at Chapel Hill when the Forrest and Cornersville alumni put on their helmets and chinstraps again in a renewal of the Battle of the North and South presented by Alumni Football USA.

Forrest, sparked by two long kickoff returns for touchdowns by Rockets’ game MVP Troy Turner, beat the Bulldogs 33-12 on a rain-soaked Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field.

“It was awesome coming back, playing with all these different guys from different years, it was just a great feeling to be back again,” Forrest’s defensive player of the game Tyler McClendon said. “Like I said, being out here with all these different guys in different years, you get to know them and it was one big family out here.”

Cornersville played the game with 19 players on the roster, compared to over 30 for the Rockets.

The contest was well-played with class and sportsmanship displayed by both teams and the Rockets’ players came out with a deep appreciation and respect for the undermanned Cornersville squad that fought until the final whistle sounded.

“They (Cornersville) came in about 10 or 12 guys less the we did and they definitely played all four quarters as tough as they can and they brought it tonight,” McClendon said.

Two Marshall County High School graduates also played key roles in the game and were afforded the opportunity to play together for a second time.

2007 MCHS graduate Jaron Jones played for the Bulldogs and his younger brother Jalen Jones (2012) strapped it up for the Rockets.

Marshall County High School grads Jalen Jones (left) and his older brother Jaron Jones were both key players in the contest.

“We have always dreamed of playing with each other and we did in the Cornersville/Lewisburg game when we played on the same team and then again tonight against each other, so it was fun and all good,” Jalen Jones said. “I have played baseball with these guys and have known them for a while, so getting up here and actually playing football with these guys, it was a great group of guys and I loved it.”

“This was an alumni game, the atmosphere was good, and the crowd was great, the fans were behind everybody, this is what football is all about, and I just loved it.”

Jaron was Cornersville’s gun-slinging quarterback Hayden McMahon’s favorite target at wide receiver, causing the Forrest defense fits all night as he caught both touchdowns scored by the Bulldogs on receptions of 47 and 57 yards.

“It feels good to get back, I wished I could play for my actual high school, but it was a good time coming out to play with Cornersville, anything to give back the community is fine with me,” Jones, who plays semipro ball in Nashville said.

Jaron’s effort earned him MVP honors for Cornersville, while Jalen took home the offensive player of the game award for Forrest as he scored on touchdown runs of two yards and 15 yards.

“This is just wonderful,” Jaron Jones said. “Most people when they get out of high school don’t go on to the next level and they just sit on the sidelines and wish to get back on the field and play with their brothers again, so I salute all these guys who just love football and continue to have the passion to play this game.”

Troy Turner (25) gets ready to break free as Zach McClendon (6) looks for his block during Turner’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second half.

The contest began in a deluge as Turner returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and Angel Reyes kicked the PAT before the Bulldogs came back.

McMahon completed three passes in a five-play drive for the Bulldogs with the final toss a 47-yard strike to Jaron Jones for a score.

The PAT was no good and then the Cornersville defense played bend but don’t break, stopping Forrest on downs with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.

Cornersville proceeded to drive to the Forrest 23-yard line where they lined up for a field goal that was blocked by Drew Carlisle.

Five plays later, Thaddeus Reyes scored on a 4-yard run for the Rockets and Angel Reyes was true again on the PAT to make it a 14-6 contest.

The Rockets’ defense forced a punt on Cornersville’s next possession before taking control of the game as they drove 57 yards on eight plays with Jalen Jones pounding the rock in the end zone from two yards out.

The PAT was no good and two plays into Cornersville’s next possession, Payton Sisk intercepted McMahon.

Forrest drove to the Cornersville 11-yard line, but a fourth down pass fell incomplete and the first half ended with the Rockets in the lead 20-6.

Jarron Jones (6) heads to the end zone on a 57-yard second half touchdown pass from Hayden McMahon.

The Bulldogs came out and scored on the first possession of the second half on a McMahon deep ball to Jaron Jones to make 20-12, but Turner immediately answered with a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown.

The PAT was no good.

The Rocket defense held again and Cory Burns punted the ball away for the Bulldogs.

Four plays later, Jalen Jones found the end zone from 15 yards out and Angel Reyes’ PAT was good, giving the Rockets a 33-12 lead with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Forrest’s Patrick Lamb recovered a fumble on Cornersville’s next snap, but Chance Dyer returned the favor when he jumped on a Forrest fumble.

The Bulldogs mounted one last drive, marching to the Forrest 36-line where a fourth down pass fell incomplete and the Rockets ran out the remainder of the clock.

“It was great, I’m not as out of shape as I thought I was,” Cornersville’s Stone Riner said. “I could have played a little better, but we gave it our all.”

Cornersville quarter Hayden McMahon (10) and his backfield mates Jeremy Dyer (24), Jeremy Skinner (7), and Chance Dyer (25) get ready for the snap.

Riner, who was selected as a member of the 2014 Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class A All-State Football Team added, “Everybody is out here watching football having a good time, it’s good for the kids, it raises money for the community and brings everybody together, its good, it’s just good.”

Jeremy Skinner was named defensive player of the game for Cornersville, Jeremy Dyer won oldest player, McMahon garnered offensive honors, and Riner won the special teams’ award.

The other Forrest award winners were Angel Reyes (Special Teams), Tyler McClendon (Defense), and Wade Chumbley (Oldest Player).

“It was tough, coming out here with 18 guys, playing against about 30 with fresh legs,” McMahon said. “I thought we came out strong, but just ran out of gas, plus we gave up those two kickoff returns that really hurt.”

“I love it, I get to play for Cornersville again, get to give back to the community and give back to the program, so I think this is great for both schools.”

A portion of the ticket sales and the concession sales go back to the two schools in the Alumni Football USA sponsored event that has put on over 1,000 games in 24 states in the past 29 years.

The two teams plan to meet again in November at Frog Bottom.

Cornersville 6 0 6 0-12

Forrest 7 13 6 7-33


First Quarter

Forrest-Troy Turner 96-yard kickoff return, Angel Reyes PAT, 11:45

Cornersville-Jarron Jones 47-yard pass from Hayden McMahon, PAT NG, 8:14

Second Quarter

Forrest-Thaddeus Reyes 3-yard run, Angel Reyes PAT

Forrest-Jalen Jones 2-yard run, PAT NG, 4:14

Third Quarter

Cornersville-Jarron Jones 57-yard pass from Hayden McMahon, PAT NG, 3:33

Forrest-Troy Turner 99-yard kickoff return, PAT NG, 2:22

Fourth Quarter

Forrest-Jalen Jones 15-yard run, Angel Reyes PAT, 7:58