Undefeated Bulldogs post third straight shutout
Lightning struck in more ways than one on Friday night in Franklin for Cornersville's Region 5-A matchup with Grace Christian Academy (0-4).
The Bulldogs (4-0, 3-0) jumped out to 28-0 lead just seven minutes into the game before a storm postponed the contest for over an hour.
After the delay, the Bulldogs tacked on 10 more first quarter points and coasted to a 50-0 win.
"Our guys worked hard throughout the week and preparing at a high level to win a big region game," Bulldog coach Gerard Randolph pointed out. "We talk a lot about execution is everything and the guys did a good job of executing our game plan for the most part."
The Bulldogs have outscored the opposition 171-20 over the first four games of the 2017 season, including three straight shutouts and are sitting at number three in the statewide Class A Associated Press Poll.
"It's a culmination of things," Randolph said about the defense. "We've got several guys that have been playing in this defense for the last four years. They are older and more mature and they are having fun playing defense."
"Our defensive staff does a good job making sure these guys are familiar with the opposing team’s offensive scheme," Randolph added. "Then it goes back to being a student of the game. We ask the guys to watch a lot of film. They get scouting reports every week that helps them look for what the other team will be doing that week."
The ever-improving Bulldog defense held a once potent Lions’ offense to just 102 total yards and clogged the middle, allowing GCA just 26 yards on the ground on 17 tries.
GCA also shot itself in the foot with six turnovers, including four fumbles, all of which were recovered by the Bulldogs for in insurmountable first quarter lead.
Eli Woodard was the catalyst for the fast Bulldog start, rushing for a 34-yard touchdown and after the first Lion turnover of the contest, Woodard again crossed the goal line from five yards out for a 14-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Henlee Mitchell pushed the lead to 21-0 with an 18-yard strike to Peyton Finch before another Lion mistake allowed the Bulldogs to put the game away midway through the opening quarter.
GCA return man Blake Barton fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, putting the Bulldogs right on the doorstop of another score.
On the next play, Cam Whitaker easily gained three yards for the score and a 28-0 lead before lightning forced the game to take a mandated break.
A weather delay can go both ways for a dominant team like the Bulldogs.
You use the time to your advantage or the layoff gives the losing opponent a chance to regroup and get back into the game.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs made good use of the long delay.
"We were actually able to take advantage of the weather delay and use it toward our advantage," Randolph recalled. "We were able to make some big adjustments during the weather delay, and it benefited our program big time."
With the lightning far enough away, play resumed with just over five minutes left in the opening frame with the Bulldogs holding a four touchdown edge.
Cornersville once again drove deep into GCA territory, but for the first time on the night, the Lions were able to hold the Bulldogs on third down.
The Bulldogs used to opportunity to work on the kicking game and Jackson Williams nailed a 27-yard field goal to push the lead to 31-0.
Any doubt that the game was already over was squashed on the next Bulldog possession when Mitchell found senior Ryan Prosser for his first career touchdown reception from 21 yards out for a 38-0 Cornersville lead.
The first quarter ended with another GCA turnover and despite the long delay, the Bulldogs continued to methodically pick apart the Lion defense with a blend of strong running with a few passes mixed in the game plan.
At the start of the second quarter Mitchell threw a career-high third touchdown pass on a 57-yard strike to Woodard, who also added his third score of the game for a 44-0 halftime advantage.
"I was pleased to see the guys still playing with tremendous effort after the break," Randolph said about the weather delay. "We were able to correct some things offensively that helped us continue to move the ball effectively."
The TSSAA 35-point mercy rule went in to affect in the second half featuring a running clock and mostly Bulldog reserves to finish the game.
In the only score of the second half from either team, Jackson Farlar ran for an 11-yard TD for the 50-0 final.
Mitchell turned in arguably one of his finest performances under center for the Bulldogs, completing four of five passes for 98 yards and three scores, while Woodard, Finch, and Prosser all received a scoring pass.
Cam Whitaker led the Dawgs’ rushing game with 75 yards on five attempts and Woodard added 40 yards on three carries.
On the defensive side, Tracy Wood led the maroon and white with four tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss, while Trenten Warren added three tackles and 0.5 tackles for a loss.
Rhett Woodard and Ethan Courtemanche both picked off a Blake Burton pass.
Cornersville prepares for what looks on paper to be the final test in the Bulldogs quest for a second straight region championship with a trip to Mount Pleasant (4-0, 2-0) Friday night.
The Tigers have scored at least 30 points in each of the first four games and are giving up just seven points per game.
"I know that we will be facing an athletic Mt. Pleasant team," Randolph said. "They are led by senior running back Zyshon Alderson. They also have several seniors in their line up this year."
"I know they have a bad taste in their mouth from last year's loss to us and I know they want to beat us bad," Randolph continued. "Mt. Pleasant will be big up front and they like to use their team speed. We will have to play at a high level if we want to compete and come out with the win this year."
The Bulldogs have beaten the Tigers two straight times, with a tough 35-20 Bulldog win at Mount Pleasant in 2016 and a huge 42-20 Cornersville win over a 7-3 Tiger team last season.
After the Mount Pleasant contest, the Bulldogs’ road gets significantly easier.
The remaining four opponents (Perry County, Fayetteville, Richland and Huntland) have a 3-12 combined record with only Huntland posting a winning record at 2-1.
Cornersville 38 6 6 0-50
GCA 0 0 0 0-0
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 34-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Woodard 5-yard run, Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Peyton Finch 18-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 3-yard run, Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Williams 27-yard Field Goal.
Cornersville-Ryan Prosser 21-yard pass from Mitchell, Williams PAT.
Cornersville-Woodard 57-yard pass from Mitchell, PAT NG.
Cornersville-Jackson Farler 11-yard run, PAT blocked.
Total Offense: Cornersville 278, GCA 98.
Rushing: Cornersville 180, GCA 30.
Passing: Cornersville 98, GCA 68.
First Downs: Cornersville 12, GCA 5.
Turnovers: Cornersville 1, GCA 5.
Penalties: Cornersville 2-10, GCA 3-25.
Rushing: Cameron Whitaker 5-75-TD, Eli Woodard 3-40-2TD, Wes Calahan 1-25, Jackson Farler 4-12-TD, Brady Calahan 2-11, Trenten Warren 2-9, C.J. Coble 2-8, Rhett Woodard 2-1, Alex Hilliard 1-(-1).
Passing: Henlee Mitchell 4-5-98-3TD.
Receiving: Eli Woodard 1-57-TD, Prosser 1-21-TD, Peyton Finch 1-18-TD, Blake Pickett 1-2.
PAT: Jackson Williams 5-7.
FG: Williams 1-1-27.
Punting: Warren 1-47
Tackles: Tracy Wood 3.5 (1.5TFL), Trenton Warren 3 (.5TFL), Eli Woodard 2.5, Houston Williams 2.5, Jackson Mitchell 2, Blake Pickett 2, Devin Baus 1.5, Rhett Woodard 1.5 (INT), Brady Calahan 1, Cameron Whitaker 1, Peyton Finch 1 (TFL), Wes Calahan 1, C.J. Coble 1, Ryan Prosser 1, Devon Massengill 1, Eli Welch 1, Trenton Posey .5, Ethan Courtemanche (INT).