Bulldogs going for the Gold Ball
Over the last two seasons, the Cornersville Bulldogs are 27-2 heading into Saturday’s Class A BlueCross Bowl title game versus Whitwell at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.
The 2017 Class A runner-up Bulldogs have had the bullseye on their backs the entire season and have stood tall to every challenge in front of them, including back-to-back long haul victories at Huntingdon in the quarterfinals and at Lake County last week in the semifinals.
“I am very proud of my guys for being able to gut out a hard-fought win against a good Lake County team,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “I can't say enough about the resilience that this team showed throughout the game, and battling through the adversity that they faced during the game.”
Cornersville trailed at Lake County 8-0 before scoring 21 unanswered points to secure the win and get a second chance at capturing the Gold Ball on Saturday.
“The guys are very excited,” Randolph said. “This is a goal that we have talked about since we came back from Cookeville last year. They want another shot at trying to win that Gold Ball.”
Whitwell (14-0) earned its spot in the title game by beating defending state champion Greenback on a last second field goal and the Bulldogs know they are in for a fight versus the unbeaten Tigers.
“Honestly, there has been a lot of talk throughout the state about this Whitwell football team this year,” Randolph said. “I felt that it would be a really good game between Greenback and Whitwell and they didn't disappoint.’
“Whitwell is a senior heavy team with several playmakers on each side of the ball. They play extremely hard and coach (Randall) Boldin has done an exceptional job with his team.”
There is nothing like experience, especially in high pressure situations and this group of Bulldog football players have been in the fire for two years, garnering a ton of wealth from last year’s title game appearance.
“I think being here in this situation last year should help us adjust to the big stage atmosphere that we will experience on Saturday,” Randolph said. “The guys were very appreciative of being in this position last year, but I am convinced they would like a different outcome this year.”
The Bulldogs have earned this championship opportunity and that doesn’t happen unless it is produced on the gridiron, in the trenches, in the backfield, in the film room, in the weight room, and in the hearts of the core 17 Frog Bottom seniors that form the nucleus of the best-ever Cornersville squad and sadly, those lettermen will be playing in their last game together.
“It will be very tough,” Randolph said about the senior class’s final ballgame. “They have been with me every step of the way, and are a very special group that is very near and dear to me and this coaching staff. I'm so proud of them and I want nothing more for them to be able to finish the deal.”
The Bulldogs played well early in last year’s title game versus Greenback as they were tied with the Cherokees 14-14 at the end of the first quarter before a series of Cornersville turnovers allowed Greenback to pull away in the 42-21 win.
“It is very important that we take care of the ball this game,” Randolph said. “I'm a firm believer that turnovers get you beat quicker than anything and playing a very good team like Whitwell, they will make you pay for it.”
Cornersville’s defense has been the best in the state all season, including a remarkable 10-game shutout streak during the regular season and an incredible 40-to-11 turnover differential, including a 10-to-4 mark in four postseason games this year.
“We have to be able create turnovers on defense,” Randolph said. “That is such a vital point in the game when your defense can create turnovers to help with the momentum.”
The fan support at last year’s title game and the past two seasons has been incredible with the Bulldog Nation and other supporters throughout the county and beyond coming in droves, making away games seem like home games to the players, who feed off of the energy.
“Bulldog Nation has been spectacular all year long, and they have truly been our 12th man throughout this season,” Randolph exclaimed. “There is no better fan base around, and I am confident that they will not disappoint on Saturday. The guys really feed off of our crowd, and our crowd is as good as it gets in high school football.”
The only Marshall County football team to ever win a state title was the 1984 Marshall County Tigers that went 14-0 to claim the Class AA title under TSSAA Hall of Fame coach and former Cornersville principal Bob Edens.
This will be the second as the Bulldogs win the BlueCross Bowl 35-21.