Bulldogs blank Hornets for perfect regular season
The Cornersville Bulldogs (9-0) had to shake off a little senior night nerves at Frog Bottom Friday before blowing out Huntland 41-0 to cap off the program’s first perfect regular season.
“They (Huntland) told us they were going to come in and hit us and they did, we just responded back to them,” senior lineman Devin Baus said. “We had something going on there early, but we got in there and fixed it and we got them.”
“It’s overwhelming, but I’m glad we made history, there is nothing else you can really ask for.”
The last Marshall County team to finish with an undefeated mark in the regular season was the Marshall County Tigers, who posted a 10-0 mark in 2000.
“It’ crazy, it’s overwhelming,” senior Eli Woodard said. “You don’t know what to think, it may hit us later.”
Cornersville also set a school record as they posted eight consecutive shutouts to end the season.
The legendary all-black Shelbyville Bedford County Training School holds the TSSAA record with 52 consecutive shutouts from 1942-49.
“This feels really good, we have been striving for this all year waiting for this moment,” senior Cameron Whitaker said. “We have been working hard every day to come out here and keep the goose egg on the scoreboard.”
The second most consecutive wins by shutout is 19 by Arcadia High School (Neb.) from 1955-56.
The second-ranked Bulldogs outscored their opponents 435-20 in regular season play, tying the 1972 Cornersville team of points allowed in a season and did not give up a point in any of its six Region 5-A games.
The back-to-back region champs also have a stout 29-7 turnover differential, including a 4-1 effort Friday night with Woodard coming up with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery in the contest.
Woodard also rushed for a touchdown and a two-point conversion, while his senior backfield mate Whitaker posted another outstanding night as he led the Bulldogs in rushing with eight carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
“It all starts with the ‘O’ line, this is the best ‘O’ line in the region and I thank God for them and I know the other backs do too,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker also closed out the scoring on the historic night at Frog Bottom when he electrified the standing room only crowd with a 23-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown with 2:28 remaining in the contest.
Senior quarterback Henlee Mitchell capped off his regular season campaign with almost perfect numbers behind center, completing 36-out-of-53 passes for 773 yards and 14 touchdowns without throwing a single interception.
“It feels good to put on for my team this year, it’s a blessing not to throw any interceptions,” Mitchell said. “It’s crazy to come out here and not lose a game all regular season and we are hoping to keep this momentum going in to the playoffs.”
“My sophomore year, coming in and not playing my high school freshman year, I didn’t like my performance. I got a little bit better my junior year and the summer of this season I wanted to buckle down and boost my performance and now I feel pretty confident.”
Huntland won the opening coin toss and deferred before stopping the Bulldogs’ initial offensive possession on downs, but the Hornets were forced to punt after being stopped on a third down incomplete pass with 6:28 remaining in the first quarter.
Cornersville got things moving on its next drive with Woodard coming up with a long run inside the Huntland 10-yard line before Whitaker scored two plays later.
Jackson Williams kicked the first of his three made extra points on the night to make it 7-0.
The Hornets started to move on offense on their next drive as they had a first down at the Cornersville 48-yard line when Woodard scooped up a fumble and raced downfield, only to fumble the rock back to Huntland at the 13-yard line.
The first quarter ended as Huntland moved up to the Cornersville 37-yard line early in the second period when Woodard picked off a pass and returned it to the Hornets’ 39-yard line.
Seven straight runs by the Bulldogs was capped off by a Whitaker seven-yard TD run and a Williams PAT boot made it 14-0 with 6:06 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs stymied the Hornets on downs to get the ball back again, but went three-and-out with 1:50 remaining in the first half.
Huntland drove inside the Cornersville 40-yard line, but once again Woodard came up big with his second interception of the game and returned it to the Hornets’ 28-yard line.
Time ticked away in the first half as the Bulldogs drove to the Huntland six-yard line when Mitchell tossed a perfect fade pass that Blake Pickett hauled in at the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Williams missed the extra point, but the Bulldogs led 20-0 at the half.
“That was a big play there,” Woodard said. “They were driving and we made the interception and went down and scored on the last play of the first half.”
“I think momentum wise, that play wore them down and they didn’t do much in the second half.”
Huntland took the second half kickoff and went nowhere as the Cornersville defense forced a punt.
The Hornets’ punter fumbled the snap as the Bulldogs took over at the Huntland eight-yard line and two plays later, Woodard busted in the end zone for a touchdown and added the two-point conversion run to make it a 28-0 contest.
“We went into halftime and talked about our mistakes and came out in the second half and corrected them,’ Whitaker said. “Nobody used to believe in Cornersville, but we are making them believe now.”
“When we all played little league we knew we were going to be good, we wanted to change the culture here in Cornersville.”
“The community in Cornersville helped us too, without them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Huntland made a little progress on offense before being stopped again by the Bulldog ‘D’ that forced another punt with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Cornersville drove to the Huntland 23-yard line as the third quarter ended and two plays into the fourth quarter, Mitchell found a wide-open Peyton Finch for a 39-yard touchdown to make it 35-0 and invoke the 35-point TSSAA mercy rule and a running clock for the remainder of the contest.
With the game out of reach and the perfect regular season intact, the only thing left for the Bulldogs was to stop Huntland from scoring and Whitaker drew the first card via a 23-yard fumble return for a score with 10:57 left in the contest.
“When Cameron scored, it hit me about then that we were going to shut them down on defense and run the clock out,” Woodard said. “Every night we played as a team, defensive wise and offensive side.”
“We took a lot of responsibility and accountability and that shows with this senior class that is pretty much veterans.”
The Bulldogs came up huge on defense again to force a punt and the Bulldogs went to the ground to run five minutes off the clock before giving the ball over on downs at the Huntland 16-yard line with 2:28 remaining in the game.
The Hornets went nowhere and the game ended with the ball deep in their own territory as Cornersville celebrated the unbeaten season and eighth straight shutout.
The Bulldogs have a bye week due to Lancaster Christian School cancelling the final contest of the regular season.
“It’s amazing being the only team in Cornersville history to go undefeated, it’s something that you dream of,” Mitchell said. “But, we have to stay focused and win this bye week, we have to day by day, put the work in and get in the weight room.”
McEwen (5-4) hosts Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central (4-5) Friday night for fourth place in Region 6-A with the winner travelling to Cornersville on Friday, November 2 for the first round of the Class A playoffs.
The Bulldogs pounded Hollow Rock-Bruceton 51-8 in last year’s opening round in the first ever meeting between the two schools and Cornersville beat McEwen 27-21 in 2013 and 14-8 in 2014 in a pair of regular season matchups.
“We respect everybody who we play and no matter who we play we are going to come out like coach (Gerard Randolph) teaches us with our hair on fire, but play disciplined, humble football,” Woodard said. “It will be pretty exciting in the playoffs with our first two games at home.”
Huntland 0 0 0 0-0
Cornersville 7 13 8 13-41
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 10-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 4:42.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 7-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 6:06.
Cornersville-Blake Pickett 6-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, PAT NG, 0:00.
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 3-yard run, Eli Woodard 2-pt. run, 8:16.
Cornersville-Peyton Finch 39-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, Jackson Williams PAT, 11:34.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 23-yard fumble return, PAT NG, 2:28.
Total Offense: Huntland 178, Cornersville 270.
Rushing: Huntland 171, Cornersville 176.
Passing: Huntland 7, Cornersville 94.
First Downs: Huntland 10, Cornersville 14.
Penalties: Huntland 2-15, Cornersville 3-30.
Turnovers: Huntland 4, Cornersville 1.
Rushing: Cameron Whitaker 8-101-2TD, Eli Woodard 9-47-TD, Trenten Warren 5-23, Henlee Mitchell 3-4, Ryan Prosser 1-2, Jackson Farler 1-2, Rhett Woodard 1-0, Brady Calahan 1-(-3).
Passing: Henlee Mitchell 7-10-94-2TD.
Receiving: Cameron Whitaker 3-23, Blake Pickett 2-20-TD, Peyton Finch 1-39-TD, Ryan Prosser 1-12.
PAT: Jackson Williams 3-5.
Punting: Trenten Warren 1-1.
Punts: Cameron Whitaker 1-30.
Tackles: Trenten Warren 8, Ethan Courtemanche 5 (2TFL), Eli Woodard 4.5 (2TFL, 2INT, FUM REC), Jackson Mitchell 3.5 (TFL), Cameron Whitaker 2.5 (FUM REC), C.J. Coble 2.5, Blake Pickett 2, Ryan Prosser 2 (1.5TFL), Devin Baus 2, Dylan Baus 2 (TFL), Peyton Finch 1 (.5TFL), Tracy Wood 1, Rhett Woodard .5.