Bulldogs crush McEwen for 10th consecutive shutout
The Cornersville Bulldogs’ march towards a return to the Class A state championship game continued on Friday at Frog Bottom as they blanked McEwen 48-0 in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
“We got off to a little slow start because they showed us some different things we hadn’t seen on film and they were scrappy and came to play,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “They were hitting us and I challenged the guys at halftime.”
“I told them we have to respond to that, we just can’t get hit in the mouth and expect them to lay down, so I challenged them to play our brand of football and they did a good job of that in the second half.”
The undefeated Bulldogs posted their 10th consecutive shutout as Tennessee Titans Mr. Football semifinalist Cameron Whitaker led the way with 111 yards rushing on just five carries with three of those touches resulting in touchdown runs.
“Cameron is a gamer man,” Randolph said. “He wants the ball in his hands and he wants to do well for his teammates and I think he did an awesome job tonight, him and Eli, it was a team effort.”
Eli Woodard, who was recently selected to play on the Toyota East/West All-Star game at Austin Peay State University on December 7, had 88 yards and a rushing touchdown, plus caught a 55-yard touchdown pass.
Senior classmate Trenten Warren also had a touchdown in a 389-yard ground game for Cornersville.
Quarterback Henlee Mitchell turned in his best game behind center as a Bulldog, completing 8-of-10 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns and he has not thrown an interception the entire season.
“I talk with Henlee throughout the week and throughout the game and tell him to manage the game and keep the chains moving and not get into pressure situations and throw interceptions or have any turnovers and he has done a great job of that all year,” Randolph said.
The Bulldogs’ defense came up with four turnovers in the contest with Whitaker, Woodard, and Ethan Courtemanche coming up with interceptions, while Whitaker came up with a late fumble recovery to preserve the shutout.
“We were a little sluggish at first, we had a little mental errors there, but when we fixed that we turned it around,” said senior linebacker C.J. Coble, who led the team with 5.5 tackles. “I just saw the holes opening up and I was going to the ball.”
McEwen threatened to bust up the historic shutout streak twice as they drove to Cornersville’s 21-yard line early in the second quarter, only to see it stopped on Woodard’s interception on a third-and-11 play.
With the game out of reach and the clock running on the 35-point mercy rule late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors faced a fourth-and-two at the Cornersville 43-yard line when Whitaker came up with the loose ball to seal the shutout.
McEwen received the opening kickoff and drove to their own 40-yard line where the Bulldogs defense stopped them on a fourth down incompletion.
On the next snap, Cornersville lost a fumble, but the Warriors were stymied again on a fourth-down play.
This time the Bulldogs got things going on offense as they drove 67 yards on eight plays with Whitaker scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run. Jackson Williams’ PAT was true and Cornersville led 7-0 with just over a minute to go in the first quarter.
McEwen was forced to punt on its next possession, but got the ball back on another Cornersville fumble at their own 12-yard line.
The Warriors moved to the Cornersville 21-yard line when Woodard intercepted a batted around ball in the end zone and returned it all the way to the McEwen 35-yard line.
Randolph called timeout, firing up the Bulldogs and three plays later, Whitaker was in the end zone again from 25-yards out as Cornersville stretched their lead to 14-0 with 4:33 left in the second quarter.
“I was not happy there, I told the guys they have to focus up,” Randolph said. “I don’t think we were focused coming out and I told them we have to change our mentality.”
Courtemanche came up with his interception on a McEwen third-down play to get the ball back with 2:59 remaining in the first half.
A Whitaker touchdown reception on a first down screen pass was called back due to the seldom called “helping the runner” penalty, but the Bulldogs were undeterred as they found the end zone three plays later on a Warren 10-yard TD burst to give Cornersville a 21-0 halftime lead.
Peyton Finch returned the second half kickoff to the 47-yard line and on the first down snap, Woodard took it to the house.
McEwen went three-and-out on its next drive and the Bulldogs had the ball at their own 45-yard line after a McEwen personal foul during the punt return and it only took one play to score again as Henlee found Woodard, who juked and jived his way to the end zone to make it a 35-0 contest and begin the running clock.
Whitaker came up with his interception on a second down McEwen play and made it 41-0 when he burst through the Warrior defense and chugged 63 yards for the score on first down.
The Bulldogs’ final score came with 9:39 left in the contest when Henlee zipped a pass to Blake Pickett, who outran the McEwen defender to the end zone.
Whitaker’s fumble recovery deep in Cornersville territory with just over two minutes to go in the game sealed the deal as the Bulldogs march on.
“First of all, I would like to thank my brothers (my teammates), the coaches, and the Cornersville community, everybody,” Whitaker said. “Other than that I come out to practice and work hard and I try to get getter every day, and pray to God every day and give all the glory to him.”
The Bulldogs (11-0) host Wayne County (7-4) at Frog Bottom Friday night in a second round contest with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
The Wildcats, who beat Huntland 20-6 in their first round contest have won 11-out-of the last 12 games versus the Bulldogs, dating back to 2001.
The two teams were region opponents for over a decade and the only Cornersville win came at Frog Bottom in 2012 when the Bulldogs eked out a 21-18 victory.
Wayne County beat Cornersville 49-14 in a 2013 first-round playoff game after the two squads went to different regions at the beginning of the season.
“We will come back on Monday, look at them on film, learn their schemes and run their plays,” Whitaker said. “All of what happened before is in the past, we are a new team now.”
McEwen 0 0 0 0-0
Cornersville 7 14 20 7-48
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 15-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 1:12.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 25-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 4:33.
Cornersville-Trenten Warren 10-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 1:44.
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 53-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 11:44.
Cornersville-Eli Woodard 55-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, Jackson Williams PAT, 9:12.
Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 63-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT NG, 4:53.
Cornersville-Blake Pickett 39-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, Jackson Williams PAT, 9:39.
Total Offense: McEwen 148, Cornersville 389.
Rushing: McEwen 103, Cornersville 212.
Passing: McEwen 45, Cornersville 177.
First Downs: McEwen 8, Cornersville 15.
Penalties: McEwen 1-15, Cornersville 1-15.
Turnovers: McEwen 4, Cornersville 2.
Rushing: Cameron Whitaker 5-111-2TD, Eli Woodard 6-88-TD, Trenten Warren 2-13-TD, Rhett Woodard 1-2, Brady Calahan 1-0, Henlee Mitchell 1-0, Jackson Farler 1-(-2).
Passing: Henlee Mitchell 8-10-177-2TD.
Receiving: Eli Woodard 1-55-TD, Peyton Finch 3-48, Blake Pickett 1-39-TD, Ryan Prosser 2-24, Cameron Whitaker 1-11.
PAT: Jackson Williams 6-7.
Kickoffs: Peyton Finch 1-12
Punts: Cameron Whitaker 2-37.
Tackles: C.J. Coble 5.5 (TFL), Trenten Warren 5 (1.5TFL), Dylan Baus 3.5 (2TFL), Cameron Whitaker 3 (INT, FUM REC), Ethan Courtemanche (INT), Ryan Prossser 2 (TFL), Eli Woodard 2 (INT), Houston Williams 2 (TFL, SACK), Sebastian Smith 2, Jacob Brooks 2, Devin Baus 1.5 (TFL), Peyton Finch 1, Rhett Woodard 1, Trenton Posey 1, Brady Calahan .5, Blake Pickett .5.