Sailing in different directions

Friday, September 7, 2018
The undefeated Cornersville Bulldogs run out versus Eagleville.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Cornersville Bulldogs and Forrest Rockets gridiron crews are like two ships sailing in different directions with the Frog Bottom vessel headed to calmer waters and sunny skies, while the Chapel Hill ship is stuck in rough waters and headed for the rocks unless a course correction is carried out.

The third-ranked Class A Bulldogs are mauling their opponents with a 121-to-20 point scoring differential in three games, including back-to-back shutouts over Eagleville and Moore County.

“I just have to applaud our guys for coming out the last three weeks and accepting the challenge against three good football teams,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “Our coaching staff has done a good job in making sure the guys stay focused, and making sure that we are prepared.”

The Cornersville defense forged two regular season shutouts last season and a 7-0 blanking over Lake County in the state championship playoff semifinals.

“The defense has been really good the past three football games,” Randolph said. “Our coaching staff has done a good job of making sure these guys know what to look for on Friday nights, and making sure we are prepared at a high level.”

Cornersville’s 31-24 favorable turnover differential in 2017 was a huge part of their success and they currently hold a 7-3 positive edge this season.

“The guys have done a great job of going out and carrying out their assignments each Friday night,” Randolph said. “We talk about preparation a lot, and I think that has been a big key to our success on defense thus far.”

“We ask the guys to watch film as much as they can so they can see what the opponents’ tendencies are, and what they like to do as an offense.”

On offense, the Bulldogs run the football and they do it with an edge, pounding and pounding as the holes open for big gains and an 8.5 yards average per rushing attempt.

That’s almost a first down every time they run the ball folks.

“The offense is playing well right now, and hopefully we can continue putting big points on the board,” Randolph stated. “Coming into this season we knew that we wanted to continue to run the ball at a high level, but I also knew that teams would really focus on stopping our run game and try to make us one dimensional.”

Cornersville’s Eli Woodard leads a lethal running attack for the Bulldogs.

Eli Woodard, Cameron Whitaker, and Trenten Warren all had at least 100 yards rushing versus Moore County and the trio has combined for 712 yards and 12 touchdowns in the first three games this year.

Add in an improved passing game led by quarterback Henlee Mitchell and you have a recipe for fits put upon opposing defenses.

“During the spring and summer we really worked on our passing game to help us get more guys involved,” Randolph stated. “We have some guys that can really catch the football, and they can also make plays once they get the football in their hands.”

“We just want to keep the defense honest each week and make sure that they have to game plan for everything that we do.”

The Bulldogs travel to Grace Christian Academy-Franklin (0-2, 0-0) Friday night for their second consecutive Region 5-A contest and Cornersville has plenty of confidence due to a perfect 4-0 all-time record versus the Lions, including two blowout wins last season by a combined score of 91-30.

“After watching film on Grace, we know they play really hard on both sides of the ball,” Randolph said. “They field a team of about 30 kids and they have nine seniors.”

The two teams have only one meeting at Franklin in the series and that was a close 35-28 win by Cornersville in a game that was decided on the last play of the game via a Bulldog tackle on the 1-yard line as time ran out in the 2016 contest.

“Honestly, we expect a battle every Friday night,” Randolph said. “We play in a tough region, and we know that we are going to get everyone's best shot.”

“The game couple years ago was very sloppy on our part at Grace, we had several penalties and we turned the ball over way too many times.”

“The guys are more mature and I expect us to more focused than we were two years ago.”

Since that win, the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) are 11-3 in conference play, including a perfect 6-0 record last season, the first unbeaten region mark in school history.

“This group has goals, yes indeed,” Randolph said about continuing the unbeaten streak and winning a state championship. “We know that we have to be focused each and every Friday night. Our mentality is to win each day we get the opportunity to get reps, practice, and play in games. We want to win every day we are involved in football.”

The Lions have been outscored 73-9 in their two losses.

Bulldogs win 44-6.

The Rockets run out before their disappointing loss versus Eagleville last week.

The Forrest Rockets need a win and they need one bad.

Chapel Hill was blown out in the season opener at BGA before bouncing back with a big 51-0 win at Fayetteville, only to see the hard work negated by a 14-13 giveaway loss at home versus Region 2-A opponent Eagleville Friday night.

“The team has responded well, we have got to focus on getting better every week,” Forrest coach Eli Stephenson said. “My goal for this team is just keep getting better from week to week.”

“I think we have done that from week one to now, we just got to keep working.”

Three turnovers and five penalties derailed the Rockets versus the Eagles, including a disastrous unsportsmanlike call late in the game that cost them the potential game-tying PAT.

Mental mistakes cost the Rockets three ballgames last year and one more region loss would put Forrest in a deep hole.

“We just got to play disciplined football, we have got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Stephenson stated.

The Rockets (1-2, 01) are back on the road this week versus a much-improved Summertown (2-1, 0-1) squad that posted back-to-back home wins over Hickman County and Wayne County to start the season before getting blown out 37-0 at second-ranked Columbia Academy last week.

The Forrest defensive unit has been tough the last two weeks, surrendering just 14 points.

Summertown only won one game last year after posting eight wins and a playoff spot in their inaugural varsity season in 2016.

This game is going to be a war as both squads look for a momentum building win that could propel the winner forward, while the loser tries to save a sinking ship.

“It is a region opponent, they all are must wins now,” Stephenson said. “The game plan is to block, tackle, and play disciplined football.”

Rockets fire the first salvo and go on to win 30-12.

The Marshall County Tigers have a bye week and will be back in action next week when they host Maplewood at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg.