Football playoffs are here, all three county teams in

Friday, November 2, 2018
The swarming, gang-tackling Cornersville defense has pitched eight shutouts in a row as they entertain McEwen Friday night at Frog Bottom in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

It seems like it wasn’t long ago that football was just getting started, but time flies fast and now it’s playoff football Friday with all three Marshall County squads participating in postseason play.

Leading the postseason charge is the 2017 Class A runner-up and undefeated Cornersville Bulldogs, who entertain McEwen (6-4) tonight at Frog Bottom with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.

“The guys have worked really hard up to this point, and yes they are proud of what they did during the regular season, but they also understand that we have to bring something extra to the playoffs to continue to move on,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “The guys take pride in not letting anyone score on them and having this undefeated regular season.”

“I think they will want to continue this as long as we can.”

The back-to-back Region 5-A champion Bulldogs (10-0) had a bye last week due to a forfeit by Lancaster Christian Academy and that spells big trouble for the Warriors.

“We were able to work on ourselves during the week,” Randolph said about the bye week. “It gave us some time to clean up some things on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

Cornersville is in the midst of a remarkable eight straight shutout run and have not been scored on since opening day at Community.

“We are going to work hard this week and prepare at a high level to stop McEwen,” Randolph stated. “They run an offense that the defense has to be very disciplined in.”

“We have to read our keys and really do our job as far as playing our gap responsibilities. I look forward to seeing the guys get back on the field this week.”

Besides the shutdown defense, the number-two ranked Bulldogs have a full arsenal on offense, including Class A Mr. Football semifinalist Cameron Whitaker, who has 1,067 all-purpose yards on the season.

“The guys really appreciate being ranked the number two team in 1A football, but they also understand that it makes other teams want to beat you that much more,” Randolph said. “So we try not to get caught up in the rankings, but we do want to make sure that we are prepared and ready to battle each Friday night.”

The backfield duo at Cornersville is lethally potent as Whitaker’s longtime backfield mate Eli Whittaker leads the Bulldogs with 1,164 all-purpose yards.

Woodard leads the Bulldogs in rushing yards (722), receiving yards (211), and touchdowns (19).

Add in 401 yards and seven touchdowns by Trenten Warren to an explosive running game that averages 231.9 yards per contest and it could be a long trip back home for the Warriors.

The Warriors also have their hands full because the Bulldogs have one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the state as senior signal caller Henlee Mitchell has not thrown an interception this season in 53 pass attempts.

Mitchell has thrown for 773 yards and 14 touchdowns with four each to Woodard and Peyton Finch, while Blake Pickett has caught three touchdown passes, and Whitaker and Ryan Prosser have two touchdown grabs apiece.

“One of our main objectives is to make defenses defend the entire field,” Randolph said. “We don't want teams to make us one dimensional, so that's why we have tried to bring a more balanced attack to the game.”

“I feel that we have several guys that can be very effective for us on offense, and teams cannot just key on a couple of guys for us now.”

The Warriors will also be shorthanded in the contest with six players suspended due to taking part in a brawl in their last regular season game versus Hollow Rock-Bruceton.

“Honestly I have no clue of who all is suspended,” Randolph said. “I do know that some of their guys got suspended, but that is it.”

“So therefore we will try to prepare at a high level and make sure that we are ready to go Friday night.”

Bulldogs win big, 41-0.

The Marshall County Tigers will be on the road for a first-round game for the first time in head coach Thomas Osteen’s tenure in Lewisburg as they travel to Cookeville to take on Region 3-4A champion and number-nine ranked Stone Memorial.

“We truly feel that we have been tested more than anyone in 4A football this season,” Osteen said. “We know that we are not gonna be phased by whatever adversity we face this week.”

“This team wants to no doubt leave its own imprint on Tiger Football.”

The Marshall County Tigers hope to have quarterback Malik Thomison and the other injured players back this week when they travel to Stone Memorial Friday for a Class 4A first round playoff game.

The Tigers have been going through a revolving door to the trainer’s room all season as injuries have cut the depth chart to an all hands on deck situation for several weeks and things don’t seem to be much better for Friday night’s game versus the Panthers.

“We have focused on controlling what we can control and that is our effort and attitude towards preparing for a really good opponent,” Osteen said.

The Tigers (4-6) have been in every contest this season into the fourth quarter and could very easily be 8-2 or 7-3 with a couple of late breaks and have lost by one point to #10 Tullahoma (14-13) and by 14 to fifth-ranked Maplewood (28-14).

MCHS also lost by seven points to 6A number two Cane Ridge (35-28) on opening day, by three points to 5A number nine Shelbyville in Week 2, and by 10 points to 6A Brentwood two weeks ago with an almost depleted squad.

“We have competed closely with every opponent on our roster this fall,” Osteen said. “We have just had a run of bad luck with the multitude of injuries that we have faced this season. Hopefully we will have more people available this week than we have at any point in the last month.”

Tigers go on the road and come back to Lewisburg with a huge 27-24 victory.

Forrest’s Nick McClendon, seen here scoring a touchdown at Loretto, hopes to lead a Rocket ground game that can put up some points on long drives and keep Waverly’s offense off the field.

The Forrest Rockets were in a do-or-die situation in last week’s senior night, regular season finale versus Community and they came out strong to run away with a 48-22 win and berth in the Class 2A playoffs.

“I was glad to get the seniors a win in their last regular senior home game,” Forrest coach Eli Stephenson said. “These seniors have worked hard since they have been with the football program and they deserved that win.”

The Rockets (5-5) ride a three-game winning streak into their first round playoff game tonight at Waverly Central.

“We are going to keep the same game day routine, we just have to leave a little earlier,” Stephenson said. “Our preparation is the same. We have got to be able to line up right and each player has to do their job.”

Forrest got their running game revved up last week versus the Vikings as they amassed 435 yards on the ground with Nick McClendon leading the assault with 287 yards and four touchdowns.

McClendon needs 175 yards to eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the second season in a row.

“That is always our game plan,” Stephenson said about running the football, this week at Waverly.

The Rockets seem to be playing their best football of the season heading into the matchup versus the number-nine ranked Tigers (7-3), who blasted Forrest 63-36 in the same scenario last season.

“The main goal of the defense is to make Waverly one dimensional,” Stephenson said. “And we have to play physical and win the turnover battle.”

It will be a tough task for the Rockets to come away with the huge upset win, but in one game on one night, anything is possible.