Undefeated CMS Bulldogs capture Elk River Conference title
If the Middle School programs in Marshall County are any indication of the future of the high school programs of the three county varsity programs---the future is bright.
The Forrest Middle School team wrapped up another successful season in the Duck River Valley Conference while Forrest alumni Beau Hardison led Lewisburg Middle School to an undefeated record (8-0) and Big South Conference Championship in just his third season at the helm and perhaps the most impressive is rookie coach Dusty Nance leading Cornersville Middle to an undefeated (8-0) regular season heading into the Elk Valley Championship game on Saturday against South Lincoln.
And just like LMS, who had to beat Witthorne two times for the championship hardware, Nance led his troops to victory for the second time this season against the Eagles, whom the Bulldogs had beaten 29-16 in Week 5.
"My coaching staff and I treated this week like every week leading up to the bowl game," Nance explained. "We played South Lincoln earlier in the year and they presented a real challenge to our defense."
"Preparing for this game we corrected our mistakes from earlier in the season and knew we had to execute," Nance added. "South Lincoln is a well-coached, very good football team."
Fortunately for Nance, the players listened to the coaches’ plan and came out and quickly scored and never relinquished the lead for the rest of a close contest.
"I was really happy with our offense this game," Nance said. "We opened the game receiving the ball and drove all the way down the field and scored on the first drive using more than half of the first quarter on one drive."
"Defensively we knew they can throw and this is really hard on a middle school secondary," Nance added. "The boys knew the plan and had full confidence in the coaches and themselves to get it done."
Wesley Pigg turned in a big game for the Bulldogs with 11 rushes for 97 yards, Riley Qualls chipped in seven carries for 48 yards and a touchdown, and Nick Nuenswander ran five times and added a score on the ground for Cornersville.
Quarterback Caden White managed a perfect game for the maroon and white, completing two of four attempts for 42 yards and a score under center, while David Metcalfe led the defense with four tackles, and Blake Estes added three, while Austin King and Bryson Alexander each had two stops.
But the main player for the Bulldogs in the championship game was the always steady Mason Calahan.
Calahan led the team with 110 yards and two scores on 17 attempts on the ground to go along with two receptions for 42 yards and a score, while also tying for a team lead of four tackles on defense.
"The bowl game was held in the middle of what had to be the hottest day in October," Nance speculated. "Every guy on the field fought till the end giving everything they had for their brothers."
"A stand out in this game was Mason Calahan," Nance observed. "Basically never coming off the field. He scored two touchdowns and made many plays on defense and special teams."
The Bulldogs set the tone early in the contest when White hit a streaking Calahan for 24 yards on the opening drive of the first quarter and an 8-0 lead after a two-point conversion.
The Eagles were able to settle the score back at 8-8 at the end of the first quarter, but the second period featured a healthy dose of Calahan and Pigg.
The two backs drove the length of the field, setting up a five-yard plunge by Calahan for a 16-8 lead.
Once again, South Lincoln wasted little time getting on the board with a touchdown run, but the Bulldogs defense dug in its heels and stopped a two-point conversion try to keep the lead at 16-14.
CMS gave itself a little breathing room heading into the break with Calahan scoring his third touchdown of the half on a six-yard scamper for the 22-14 lead at the intermission following a failed two-point conversion.
"It was 22-14 at the half with the Bulldogs on top," Nance stated. "With them getting the ball back after half time. At half time we made corrections to the secondary and linebacker position and added a few wrinkles into the offense."
Riley Qualls got into the ground action in the second half, scoring in the third period to put the Bulldogs up 28-14.
However, just like in any good championship tussle, South Lincoln made its run.
The Eagles scored two unanswered touchdowns to cut the lead to 28-26 in the final quarter before Nick Nuenswander finally put the game away with a one-yard TD run late in the game for the 36-26 final.
"It wasn’t till close to the end of the game before I knew we had it squared away," Nance recalled. "I never want to take the foot off the gas till the end. I teach these kids no matter what we fight till the clock is on zero."
With the win the Bulldogs finished the season 9-0 at the same time the high school squad is making a name as a 1A state powerhouse.
"I have to give credit to the perfect season to these kids and my staff," Nance offered. "They work all day, every day to ensure these guys are always ready. A huge reason for success out of this group of young men comes from the great coaches they have had in the past," Nance continued. "Speaking for the high school success I have to give that to the culture Coach Randolph has established here."
"It is like no other because these teams expect to win and will not accept anything else," Nance added. "My middle school kids are at every high school game watching and waiting for their time to get involved in the great culture coach Randolph has led. It is hard to lose when everyone in the community is at your games home and away."
And with the amount of production from a large assortment of underclassmen on this undefeated squad, the coaches know there is the possibility that the winning ways will continue well into the future and especially next year.
"I am expecting another great season next year," Nance emphasized. "I am returning four or five guys on both sides of the ball who are all really good athletes and are ready for their opportunity to carry on the winning culture here. I am looking for a big year out of Wesley Pigg and Ben Franklin."
And with any winning team at any level in any sport, the players and coaches are only a part of a successful formula. The community and fan base have to rally behind the team to make the campaign a successful one.
"This being my first year as a head coach, these young men and their parents made it a great experience for me," Nance explained. "If we needed to be fed it was done, if we needed jerseys washed no problem, they handled it great." "When Coach Stocstill passed his team on to me I was a bit worried about following up such a great coach," Nance added. "I had some big shoes to fill. A big thank you to him for giving me this opportunity and trusting me to take his program over and take care of something that meant the world to him."
Week 1 CMS 22, Highland Rim 0
Week 2 CMS 36, Richland 0
Week 3 CMS 46, Flintville 22
Week 4 CMS 54, South Giles 6
Week 5 CMS 29, South Lincoln 16
Week 6 CMS vs. Moore County (forfeit)
Week 7 CMS 49, Blanche 8
Week 8 CMS 28, Huntland 8
Ben Franklin - 4
Riley Qualls - 39
Mason Callahan - 24
Skylar Davis - 11
Braden Hickman - 2
Blake Estes - 18
John Michael Jeter - 15
David Metcalf - 19
Austin King - 4
Blaine Woodard - 3
Jake Welch - 1
Caleb Gibson - 1
Wesley Pigg - 8
Cody Gibson - 1
Bo Schilling - 2
Bryson Alexander - 21
Nick Neuswander - 1
Sam Polk - 1
Caden White - 2
Riley Qualls - 1 Fumble Recovery
Ben Franklin - 1 Fumble Recovery
Bradden Hickman - 1 Fumble Recovery
Bo Schilling - 1 Interception, 1 TD
Skylar Davis - 1 Interception
Caden White - 1 Interception
Bryson Alexander - 2
Ben Franklin - 1
Nick Neuswander– 22-370-10TD