Bulldogs, Tigers gear up for 2nd round playoff games

Friday, November 9, 2018
The Cornersville defense is ranked number one in Tennessee in points allowed this season and has no intentions of giving any ground this week when they host Wayne County in a Class A quarterfinal matchup at Frog Bottom.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

Round two of the TSSAA playoffs continues tonight as the undefeated Cornersville Bulldogs host Wayne County at Frog Bottom and the Marshall County Tigers make the short trip to Tullahoma.

The Bulldogs whipped McEwen 48-0 last week in round one to extend their unbeaten streak to 11 games and Cornersville has now posted shutouts in 10 straight contests.

“We were excited to get the victory over McEwen last week and be able to advance to the second round of the playoffs,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “I know we have to do a better job of starting the game off, and we cannot have the slow starts that we have had the last couple of games.”

The Bulldogs game plan is straight up old-fashioned football…run the pigskin, mix in a quality passing game, take care of the ball, and play smash mouth defense from the get go.

Cornersville has rushed the ball for 2,531 yards and is averaging 43.9 points per game, while their opponents have not reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark combined for the season (744 yards).

“We have to continue to play our brand of football,” Randolph stated. “We have to take care of the ball on offense and not turn it over.”

“We also have to stay ahead of the chains, and not put ourselves in bad situations. When we have the opportunity to score touchdowns we have to make it count.”

The Bulldogs’ defense is a total shutdown unit that has given up just 2.6 yards per rush, 3.3 per pass and they have a plus takeover margin of 32-to-9 with 17 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.

“Defensively, we have be disciplined and be the more physical team up front,” Randolph said. “This game will be won up front, and we have to dominate at that aspect.”

Wayne County (7-4) has won five out of its last six ballgames, including a 20-6 win over Huntland last week in Waynesboro, but the Wildcats have never faced a Cornersville football team this prestigious.

The Wildcats have won 12-out-of-13 meetings versus Cornersville since 2001, but now they have the daunting task of playing at Frog Bottom in front of a rabid Bulldog fan base that has spurred their team to 18 consecutive home wins, including a 5-0 home record in the playoffs over the last two seasons.

“We have talked to the guys about past games that these two programs have been in,” Randolph said. “The guys want to do well and they are fired up at the chance to get to compete against a good Wayne County team.”

“The guys know the circumstances that are involved with this game, and they are not ready for our season to end. We will be ready to go!”

Wayne County stands in the way of the second-ranked Bulldogs ultimate goal of reaching the Class A title game for the second year in a row and Randolph’s team will not overlook the task at hand as they pound the Wildcats 35-0 to earn a quarterfinal round trip to Huntington next week to face the number-one ranked Mustangs (11-0), who host Mt. Pleasant (8-3) tonight.

Cornersville beat Huntington 21-20 last year in a double overtime thriller in the quarterfinals at Frog Bottom.

“It would be awesome to get a big win Friday night over a very good Wayne County team,” Randolph said. “This is playoff time and everyone is trying to advance. This group of seniors have played a lot of football for this program, and we would like nothing more than for them to get a big playoff win in front of the home crowd.”

After coming away with a 30-29 overtime win at top-seeded Stone Memorial last week, it’s redemption night for the Marshall County Tigers, who travel to Tullahoma (9-2) tonight for a Class 4A quarterfinal game.

“We are so happy that our kids continued to fight even with the huge adversity we faced at the end of the game,” Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said about last week’s win. “We have been no stranger to big obstacles this year so I really think our kids were not fazed by those circumstances and consequently were able to overcome them. Hopefully, they all made a great memory Friday night.”

The Tigers’ offensive line came up huge in overtime last week, paving the way for the game tying touchdown and the game winning 2-point conversion, both by junior running back Javarria Rucker.

Marshall County’s 14-13 loss to the Wildcats on August 30 seems like a million years ago, but the defeat has never left the minds of the Tigers or the coaching staff that wanted this rematch in the worse way.

The Tigers (5-6) had a couple of key turnovers at crucial times in the August home opener and failed to score on a potential game winning drive after a Tullahoma interception.

“I think the win (Stone Memorial) gave us some much needed energy and bounce to attack the next week,” Osteen said. “The kids are pumped to be given the opportunity to play Tullahoma again.” Osteen’s team has faced adversity all season as they have had an unusual amount of injuries during the campaign, but they seem to be getting healthy at the right time.

Junior running back Javarria Rucker has been banged up all season, but came back last week to rush for 181 yards and three touchdowns versus Stone Memorial.

“Javarria has been our best offensive threat all year,” Osteen said. “He has done a bunch of great things for us all year long, but struggled with ball security and durability early on.”

“He has continued to get better and no doubt relished the opportunity to be such a huge factor in the game Friday night. He has a big future ahead for us.”

Rucker had 98 yards and two touchdowns in the earlier season loss to the Wildcats, who broke a three-game losing streak to the Tigers with the victory.

This is Tullahoma’s first home playoff game since they beat White County 37-13 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2012.

“It will be the biggest home game that they have had in over a decade,” Osteen said. “The atmosphere will be special and one that our kids will love playing in. I am thrilled that they have earned the right to play in such a big game.”

Unlike past years, the Tigers are the hunter, not the hunted and the squad seems to be relishing the underdog role.

“All the pressure will be on Tullahoma,” Osteen said. “It’s the best team they have had in a long time. They will be favored to win. Hopefully we will play loose, hard, and confident.”

Tigers win in a close game 30-27.