Bulldogs run to third straight win
Anyone driving past Frog Bottom last Friday would see a sight that was reminiscent of last fall's historic run.
The parking spaces were limited all the way back to the baseball field 30 minutes before kickoff, the now trademark fireworks after every Bulldog touchdown, and of course, the standing room only crowd packed three deep all around the football field fences.
Cornersville games are now the place to be on Friday nights.
And apparently, the 2018 version of the Bulldogs have changed little from the 2017 Class A runner-up squad.
Despite bringing back almost every player from the 2017 team, the Bulldogs still managed to shock the mid-state with a 41-0 win over seventh-ranked 2A Eagleville last week.
The popular thought was that this Friday's game versus Moore County (2-1, 0-1) would be the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) hardest Region 5-A test of the season.
If that was the case, Cornersville passed with flying colors, taking a shutout into the half before finishing off the Raiders with a brutal run game with scores from Eli Woodard, Cameron Whitaker and Trenten Warren en route to a convincing 39-0 victory.
"Going into the game we knew we were going to face a really physical and talented Moore County team," Bulldog head coach Gerard Randolph said. "They are well-coached and we knew we would have to play at a high level if we wanted to come out with the win."
“Afterwards, I was very appreciative to get a huge region win and come out of the game healthy," Randolph continued. "We talked to the team all week about how important it was to prepare at a high level and make sure we were prepared for their Wing-T offense.”
“Our guys did a really good job of coming in each day with the mentality of getting better each day, and making sure we were prepared."
The Raiders stayed within striking distance for the first half the game with the Bulldogs taking a 19-0 lead at intermission after a couple missed extra points.
But the first play of the second half, Whitaker punished two would be Raiders’ tacklers before trotting into the end zone for a 25-0 lead.
Trenten Warren put the finishing touchdowns on the Raiders, breaking away for two long TD runs before the second team took over.
"We just give all we can and never quit until the whistle blows," Warren said. "We get really good blocks up front and we just have to run hard behind them."
The Bulldogs also have a revamped passing game and have no problem making good use of it.
After the Raiders turned the ball over on downs deep into Bulldog territory midway through the second quarter, Cornersville quarterback Henlee Mitchell hit hybrid tight end Peyton Finch for a pair of long catches to set up a 25-yard touchdown run from Whitaker to put the Bulldogs up 19-0.
"I think the passing game just kind of spreads out the defense more," Finch said. "It gives us a better chance at running the ball and it's always nice to be able to pass in certain situations."
The Bulldogs have outscored its first three opponents 121-20 over perhaps the three toughest opponents the team might face in 2018.
"It goes back to preparation," Randolph explained. "We take it one rep at a time, one practice at a time, and one game at a time."
"This year similar to last year, we approach each game the same way," Randolph added. "We approach the game as if it's the biggest game we have ever played in. I think we play in the toughest region in 1A football and we know we have to bring our best each and every Friday night."
Judging from the early results from Woodard at the running back position full-time (five rushing TD, two receiving TD) the move to bring Mitchell back as the starter at quarterback has paid huge dividends for the Bulldogs, who are averaging just over 40 points per contest.
"I think all of us are feeling pretty confident," Mitchell said. "Tonight wasn't one of our best showings by any means. Coming off of last week’s win where we thought we played pretty well, tonight's win was kind of lackluster for what we want to accomplish. But it got the job done."
"We need to focus a little bit better during practice and come out here and get off to a faster start than we did out here tonight," Mitchell continued. "Our first half tonight wasn't very good at all. We got some rhythm going in the second half, but we want to play that way all four quarters."
If the offense was not in full rhythm in the first half, the Bulldog offense made sure that the Raiders were not going to get anywhere in believing they had a shot in the game.
Moore County made two deep drives into Bulldog territory, but the Cornersville defense made stops both times on fourth down to keep the lead and the shutout intact.
"We are just talking really well on defense," senior Ryan Prosser noted. "We've been able to learn all the opponent's plays during the week, so that really slows the game down when we come out here on Friday night."
As each week brings another blowout win, the Bulldogs will have a bigger target on its back.
This Friday, the Bulldogs travel to Franklin to take on Grace Christian Academy in the first of three straight road games.
The Lions played the Bulldogs close during the regular season in 2017 (39-15), but Cornersville dismantled GCA in the second round of the playoffs (52-15) after the Lions shocked Wayne County 64-24 in the opener.
The Lions (0-2) have struggled mightily in 2018, scoring just nine points and giving up 73 in opening losses to Mount Juliet Christian and Middle Tennessee Christian.
"After watching film on Grace, this team is not bad at all," Randolph observed. "They play extremely hard and they continue to run the same scheme as the last couple of years."
"They will be spread and they will continue to run RPO concepts and they do a good job for coach (Rusty) Smith," Randolph added. "Defensively, they continue to run their 3-4 defense playing mostly cover three on the back end. Like I said earlier this team plays extremely hard and we cannot afford to take this team lightly."
Moore County 0 0 0 0-0
Cornersville 13 6 6 14-39
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 43-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Woodard 5-yard run, PAT NG.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 32-yard run, PAT NG.
Cornersville-Whitaker 44-yard run, 2-point conversion run NG.
Cornersville-Trenten Warren 59-yard run, PAT NG.
Cornersville-Rhett Woodard 4-yard run, 2-point conversion pass to Ryan Prosser.
Total Yards: Moore County 108, Cornersville 430.
Rushing: Moore County 91, Cornersville 361.
Passing: Moore County 17, Cornersville 69.
First Downs: Moore County 9, Cornersville 19.
Turnovers: Moore County 1, Cornersville 2.
Penalties: Moore County 6-55, Cornersville 7-50.
Rushing: Trenton Warren 7-112-TD, Eli Woodard 9-106-2TD, Cameron Whitaker 8-102-2TD, Brady Calahan 3-30, Rhett Woodard 4-8-TD, Jackson Farler 1-6, Wes Calahan 1-1, Henlee Mitchell 1-(-4).
Passing: Mitchell 3-4-69.
Receiving: Peyton Finch 2-57, Eli Woodard 1-12.
PAT: Jackson Williams 1-3.
Punting: Warren 1-35.
Punts: Whitaker 1-8.
Tackles: Trenten Warren 6.5, Eli Woodard 4 (TFL), Cameron Whitaker 4 (TFL), C.J. Coble 4, Dylan Baus 3 (TFL), Devin Baus 3 (.5TFL), Peyton Finch 3 (SACK, 2TFL), Ethan Courtemanche 2.5 (.5TFL), Devon Massengill 2.5, Houston Williams 2 (TFL), Wes Calahan 2, Ryan Prosser 1.5, Tracy Wood 1.5, Brady Calahan 1, Alex Webster 1, Eli Welch .5, Blake Pickett (INT).