Bulldogs get last bite at Huntingdon

Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Cornersville senior tight end Peyton Finch (81) scored the game winning touchdown with 17 seconds remaining in the Class A quarterfinals at Huntingdon Friday night.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Cornersville Bulldogs did not receive a kindly welcome at Huntingdon as they walked into the visitors’ locker room to find some not so friendly messages taped to the wall, but the Frog Bottom boys were unfazed as they handed the Mustangs their first home loss in two years and first in the new Paul Ward Stadium.

The win was the first-ever road playoff triumph in Cornersville school history.

Heroes abounded for the Bulldogs in the hard-fought contest with the final heroic feat performed by a pair of Cornersville seniors as quarterback Henlee Mitchell tossed the game winning, two-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Finch with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, lifting Cornersville to a 13-7 win over the Mustangs in the Class A state quarterfinal game.

“That was coach, he put the game in my hands and I’m just happy I could deliver for my team,” Mitchell said. “Peyton made a great catch in the end zone, he ran a great route, got release, and just made a great play.”

24 seconds prior to the Finch go-ahead touchdown, on a third-and-six play, Mitchell hooked up with wide receiver Blake Pickett, who made a spectacular leaping catch for a 35-yard gain to the Huntingdon four-yard line.

“That’s all Pickett, I knew it was fourth down and I had to give my guys a chance,” Mitchell said. “I threw it up and he made a spectacular catch and came down with the ball to set everything else up. He said just throw up, I got it.”

It’s the second season in a row that the Bulldogs (13-0) have handed Huntingdon a season-ending loss and this Friday’s night semifinal game is also a rematch from last year’s final four round as the Bulldogs travel to Tiptonville to take on Lake County (12-1).

Lake County, who defeated Freedom Prep 52-33 in quarterfinal action Friday night, lost a close 7-0 nail biter at Frog Bottom last season.

In other Class A quarterfinal action, the defending state champs Greenback smothered Coalfield 35-7 and Whitwell took down South Pittsburg 34-28 in double overtime.

Greenback (12-0) travels to Whitwell (13-0) in a first-ever game between the two schools.

Bulldog senior captains from left CJ Coble, Cameron Whitaker, Trenten Warren, and Eli Woodard move towards midfield for the coin toss.

Cornersville took the opening kickoff, but had to punt the ball away to the Mustangs, who drove all the way to the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line before a Hunter Ensley fourth down pass fell incomplete.

The Mustangs stymied Cornersville again and took over at their own 22-yard line after another Bulldog punt with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter.

Huntingdon went backwards as the Cornersville defense took control to force a punt, but the Bulldogs could not move the ball either and had to kick it away with 11:13 remaining in the second quarter.

The Mustangs moved the ball to the Cornersville 35-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-four, but another defensive stand stopped them cold when Trenten Warren and Dylan Baus met in the backfield to sack Ensley and the Bulldogs took over with 9:06 remaining in the first half.

Eli Woodard ran for two yards on first down before Tennessee Titans Mr. Football finalist Cameron Whitaker busted loose and ran all the way to the Huntingdon seven-yard line, making it first and goal.

Tennessee Titans Class A Mr. Football finalist Cameron Whitaker (15) pounds his way in to the end zone for a first quarter touchdown.

Three plays later Whitaker was in the end zone and Jackson Williams added the PAT boot to put the Bulldogs in front 7-0 with 7:25 remaining in the first half.

Huntingdon ran four plays and had to punt again and the Bulldogs went on the move inside Mustang territory, but four false start calls ruined the effort and Warren came on to punt for Cornersville and pinned the home team down at their own 1-yard line and the first half ended three plays later.

The Mustangs took the second half kickoff and moved to the Cornersville 20-yard line before a block in the back penalty put them way behind the chains as they eventually faced a long, fourth-and-45 from their own 44-yard line.

Daquan Robinson took a handoff and was hemmed in, but he changed direction and scooted all the way to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown and Cole Edwards added the PAT to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:02 left in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs put together a nice drive as they moved towards the midfield stripe, but Woodard fumbled the ball away and the Mustangs took over.

Three plays into the Huntingdon drive Woodard got redemption when he picked off Ensley on the sideline with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs started at their own 39-yard line where they went on a grueling 13-play drive all the way to the Huntingdon 14-yard line, but a fourth down pass attempt fell incomplete and the Mustangs escaped and took over with 8:06 remaining in the contest.

The Cornersville defense was up to the task and forced a three-and-out, but the sure handed Whitaker bobbled the punt and Corieon Nance recovered for the Mustangs at the 49-yard line.

Cornersville’s Trenten Warren (2) and Dylan Baus (72) sack Huntingdon quarterback Hunter Ensley (9).

The Bulldog defense came into the contest allowing a measly 4.1 points per game and had no intentions of letting Huntingdon score anymore as they stuffed the Mustangs on three straight plays to force a punt with 4:07 remaining in the contest.

“Our defense did really good, we filled our gaps and we all played our assignments well,” senior middle linebacker CJ Coble said. “I have to say our secondary and everybody else did their job like they were supposed to and everybody made this work.”

“You have to be there to pick your brother up when they are down, that’s what makes a great team.”

Cornersville was 80 yards away from the end zone and Mitchell hit Woodard out of the backfield on the first down play and two snaps later, Woodard busted a huge run to the Huntingdon 43-yard line.

The Mustangs stopped the Bulldogs for no gain on first down and Whitaker picked up four yards on second down as the clock kept on ticking.

Mitchell tossed an incomplete pass on third down and now the Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-six from the Huntingdon 39-yard line when Mitchell took the snap and backpedaled before launching a pass high in the air and Pickett leaped and came down with the ball in a battle with two Mustang defenders at the four yard line.

“I just wanted to play next week and I didn’t want this to be my last game, especially against Huntingdon,” Pickett said. “That stuff in the locker room just added motivation for us and it was really just worse for them.”

“If players are like that it means they are not very sportsmanlike and they are not a disciplined team.”

After a one-yard run, Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph called timeout and after another short run, Randolph called timeout again.

The Bulldogs faced a third-and-goal from the three-yard line with no timeouts left and Mitchell took the snap and dropped back before firing the ball to the right corner of the end zone where Finch stretched out and made a great catch and fell to the ground for the touchdown with 17 seconds left in the game.

“It’s called trips right, three amigos and Henlee put it on me perfect,” Finch said. “It feels amazing, they were talking smack and we whipped their butt, so it makes it a whole lot better.”

Williams missed the extra point kick and the Bulldogs kicked off, leading 13-7.

Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph and the Bulldogs celebrate the win with their fans in the postgame huddle.

Huntingdon was in desperation mode as Ensley launched a first down pass that was intercepted by Pickett and the Bulldogs were through to the semifinals and the Mustangs were just through for the year.

“It’s a great moment to be a Bulldog at this time,” Coble said. “Beating them at their own field is a big accomplishment for us.”

“It was the first-ever win on the road for us, so we are taking another step in the right direction, we have one more game and then the big game.”

Kickoff in the Class A semifinal between the Bulldogs and the Falcons in Tiptonville is slated for 7 p.m. The winner moves on to the title game next week in Cookeville.

“We are going to ground and pound,” Coble added. “That’s what we hang our hat on.”

Cornersville 0 7 0 6-13

Huntingdon 0 0 7 0-7

Scoring Plays

Second Quarter

Cornersville-Cameron Whitaker 2-yard run, Jackson Williams PAT, 7:25.

Third Quarter

Huntingdon-Daquan Robinson 56-yard run, Cole Edwards PAT, 8:02.

Fourth Quarter

Cornersville-Peyton Finch 2-yard pass from Henlee Mitchell, PAT NG, 0.17.

Total Offense: Cornersville 274, Huntingdon 238.

Rushing: Cornersville 198, Huntingdon 157.

Passing: Cornersville 76, Huntingdon 81.

First Downs: Cornersville 15, Huntingdon 8.

Penalties: Cornersville 7-35, Huntingdon 7-65.

Turnovers: Cornersville 2, Huntingdon 2.

Cornersville Offense

Rushing: Eli Woodard 21-112, Cameron Whitaker 12-80-TD, Trenten Warren 2-6.

Passing: Henlee Mitchell 9-16-76-TD.

Receiving: Blake Pickett 1-35, Cameron Whittaker 3-26, Eli Woodard 2-13, Peyton Finch 2-6-TD, Trenten Warren 1-(-4).

Kicking

PAT: Jackson Williams 1-2.

Punting: Trenten Warren 4-151-1I20.

Returns

Kickoffs: Eli Woodard 1-24.

Punts: Cameron Whitaker 2-12.

Defense

Tackles: Eli Woodard 9.5 (1.5 TFL. INT), Trenten Warren 8 (.5 TFL. .5 SACK), CJ Coble 4.5 (.5TFL), Ryan Prossser 3.5, Devin Baus 2, Dylan Baus (1.5 TFL, .5 SACK), Cameron Whittaker 1.5, Blake Pickett 1 (INT), Ethan Courtemanche 1, Devin Massengill 1, Houston Williams 1.