History in the making, Bulldogs seek perfection

Friday, October 19, 2018
The Cornersville defense has posted seven straight shutouts and has a 25-to-6 turnover differential, including 12 fumble recoveries.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The next to the last week of regular season football has all three county teams playing at home Friday night with the 2017 Class A state runner-up Cornersville Bulldogs leading the docket at Frog Bottom as they attempt to complete a perfect regular season with a win over the Huntland Hornets.

“I am very proud of the success that this team has had so far this year,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “It is fun watching these young men go and play our brand of football. I want nothing more than to have them finish the regular season on a high note.”

The second-ranked Bulldogs also have a chance at another remarkable feat as the defensive unit looks to make it eight shutouts in a row.

“I think it would be great if they could accomplish the undefeated regular season, and have this to look back on as they get older,” Randolph stated. “The shutouts have been remarkable, and they I know that the guys take a lot of pride in getting this done, so yes it would be very historic if we could accomplish all of this.”

Cornersville and seven-time state champion Alcoa are the only two football teams in Tennessee that have not given up a single point in region play.

“That is awesome to be even mentioned in the same sentence as the powerhouse Alcoa,” Randolph said. “As a coach you would like to see your program gain such tradition and prestige as a team like Alcoa, and it's just awesome to see how the hard work from the players and coaches has paid off so far.”

The back-to-back Region 5A champion Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0) have a 249-0 blanking over region foes this season, while Alcoa (8-0) has a 212-0 mark with two region road games remaining, including a matchup at Gatlinburg-Pittman (6-2, 3-1) Friday night and at eighth-ranked Austin East (6-2, 4-0) in the regular season finale.

The Bulldogs had a bye week last Friday after pummeling Richland 57-0 on October 5.

“I think it was a good time for us to have the bye week,” Randolph said. “The guys have played several weeks in a row, and it definitely was a good time for us to get a break and recharge the batteries.”

Randolph added his thoughts looking back on the win over the archrival Raiders as he said, “I thought the guys did a good job of setting the tone early in the game. I thought we were able to control the line of scrimmage and that was a huge reason why we were successful.”

Friday night’s game in Cornersville is the Bulldogs’ final game of the regular season due to Lancaster Christian School cancelling next week’s scheduled contest.

It will also be senior night for 17 Bulldogs that have transformed the program and have electrified football fans with their steady, athletic, highly skilled, and tough style of play.

“It is definitely a bittersweet moment for our program, we knew this day was coming and I know the guys are excited, but you hate to know as a coach that this will be their last regular season home game,” Randolph said. “I'm so proud of this group of young men for the hard work and dedication that they have shown over the last four years here.”

“This is a special group that only comes around so often, and it is truly a blessing and a privilege to be associated with them and their families! We want them to have a lot of more football to play this season after Friday night!”

The much-improved Hornets (6-2, 3-1), who have clinched their first playoff spot since 2014, will have their hands full this week as the Bulldogs complete their historic undefeated mark with a 31-0 win.

“Huntland is a very solid team that is having a really good year,” Randolph said. “They are well-coached, and like us they have several seniors on the team.”

“They will bring sixteen seniors to go to battle with us this Friday night. We will have to know where junior Cameron Reed is at all times during the game. He is definitely an impact player for them that can change the outcome of the game quickly.”

Marshall County quarterback Malik Thomison (5) hands off to running back Javarria Rucker (3), who follows senior offensive lineman Austin Wright (60) for a gain versus Spring Hill last week.

The Marshall County Tigers (3-5, 2-2) will also be celebrating senior night this week at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg when they entertain 6A Brentwood (6-2, 3-1) in a non-region tussle.

“Senior nights are always special,” MCHS head coach Thomas Osteen said. “This group has been such an integral part of Tiger football over the last four years in winning a bunch of games and helping the Tigers reach three consecutive semifinal berths.”

The Tigers are coming off a big 28-7 playoff clinching win at Spring Hill last week where the defense pitched a shutout and the offense scored 21 points in a solid effort.

“I'm most proud that we took advantage of the opportunity that was before us and earned a playoff spot,” Osteen said. “The kids showed up all week during Fall Break and put in the work it took to get a win.”

The undermanned Tigers have been fighting the injury bug for the past few weeks, but several of the younger players have had a chance to get on the field and they have performed well.

“Our injury list continues to be one of our biggest obstacles that we have faced this season,” Osteen stated. “I hope we can get some of those guys back soon, but in reality that gives someone else an opportunity to play with the next man up philosophy."

The Bruins are coming off a win as well with backup quarterback Dylan Stevens throwing for 162 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-10 win at home over Father Ryan.

“Brentwood is a first class 6A program,” Osteen said. “I hate the fact that we are playing such a talented non-region opponent this late in the year but that's the schedule we have before us and we are going to take it head on.”

Brentwood has a deep roster, but Osteen knows how to get the boys ready in Lewisburg.

“The keys to winning will be to limit their big plays, create turnovers on defense, take care of the ball on ‘O’, and stay in good down and distance situations all night on offense,” Osteen said about the game plan.

Look for the Tigers to play inspired and come away with a tough 28-24 win.

Forrest’s junior running back Nick McClendon (6), who leads the Rockets in rushing with 408 yards and four touchdowns, will try to lead his team to a win this week at home versus Cascade.

Although the Forrest Rockets have a huge non-region game at home this week versus archrival Cascade, there will be a lot of scoreboard watching in Chapel Hill.

The Rockets (3-5, 2-3) are fighting for their playoff lives and don’t have any control of that outcome this week, but Loretto does and the Mustangs (4-4, 2-2) have their hands full as they travel to Eagleville (5-3, 2-2) this week.

Loretto has lost four straight to the Eagles and the Rockets hope that trend continues.

A loss by the Mustangs gives the Rockets the playoff tiebreaker after Forrest won at Loretto 32-13 before heading to their bye week.

The Rockets host Community (1-7, 0-4) next week for senior night, while Loretto travels to fourth-ranked Columbia Academy (7-1, 4-0) in a game that could determine Forrest’s playoff fate.

Hopefully, Stephenson’s squad won’t be overlooking a much-improved, three-win Cascade team which broke a 14-game losing streak on October 5 in a 26-0 win over the Vikings.

The Champions added wins over Jackson County (42-14) and Grundy County (55-35) before getting trounced 48-7 by Trousdale County last week at Wartrace.

The week off has given the Rockets some injury healing time and a chance to set up a solid game plan to defeat Cascade.

Look for the Rockets to keep their eyes on the field this week as the Forrest running game proves to be too much for the Champions, who fall 27-7 at the Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill.