It was a packed house with an electric atmosphere at the Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill Friday night for the 61st meeting between Forrest and Cornersville in the Battle of the North and South.
Forrest owned a 48-10-2 record coming into the contest with the last Cornersville win coming in 1996, but the Bulldogs busted the 25-year losing streak with a bruising 16-6 win over the Rockets.
“It was a great win for us,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “It was a big rivalry game and you never know what you get out of these games, so we are very happy we came out with a ‘W’ tonight.”
Cornersville outrushed Forrest 157 yards to 104, also winning the time of possession by over a nine-minute margin and the two-time Class A state runner-up picked up 21 first downs, while the Frog Bottom defense held the Rockets to just five first downs in the contest and pitched a second half shutout.
“That’s what we do, we try to run the ball and stay ahead of the chains and wear people down throughout the game,” Randolph said. “Forrest didn’t make it easy for us, they played great, but we found a way at the end to get some hard yards and put that second score up.”
Forrest’s only score came on a trick play as Brenton Burchell heaved a 65-yard option pass to Christian Hammond in the second quarter.
The trick play came one snap after the Bulldogs had taken an 8-0 lead on a Cason Warner 1-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion run by Cornersville signal caller Cade White.
“That was unfortunate on the touchdown. Guys didn’t read their keys and we had just come off a touchdown and we were on high,” Randolph said. “I told them we have to focus up and the great thing about it was we had short term memory and stopped that two-point conversion.”
The Bulldogs’ scoring drive was extended on a Warner fourth-down conversion run and a big gain by Ben Franklin that set up the Warner touchdown.
“That was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time, I think it boosted our emotion level a whole lot more because we knew this was going to be a dogfight coming in,” Warner said. “They had their scheme and we had ours. It was a battle in the trenches up front and I can’t thank my linemen enough for opening up those holes and giving me a push up front.”
“They wasn’t any long runs except the one at the beginning, but those small yards is what counts, getting those small yards and pounding the rock.”
Cornersville took the 8-6 lead to the locker room at halftime, coming out in the second half and stopping a Rockets’ drive at midfield when Rhett Woodard recovered a Forrest fumble.
“I’m super proud of them (defense), they stepped up,” Randolph said. “We talked about it in the locker room, telling them to go take this game, and defensively we play well in the second half.”
The Bulldogs grounded off almost five minutes of the third quarter clock before punting, but the Cornersville defense held again when they stopped the Rockets on a three-and-out.
The Bulldogs went to work on offense, driving to the Forrest 16-yard line where the Rockets’ defense held on a third-down play.
Cornersville's next drive was halted at the Chapel Hill 16-yard line where Eli Welch attempted a 33-yard field goal that came up short.
The Rockets escaped the trouble, but the good vibes did not last long as Woodard picked off Hunter Bennett on Forrest’s first play after the missed field goal and like most turnovers, it was costly.
The Bulldogs had the ball at the Forrest 26-yard with just over 10 minutes left in the game and it did not take them long to cash in.
Woodard ran for 14 yards before Calahan ran twice more to the Rockets’ 7-yard line where Franklin got the edge and scored on an end-around to make it 14-6.
Warner busted into the end zone for two more points and the Bulldogs had a 16-6 lead with 7:36 remaining in the contest.
The Rockets tried to bounce back, driving all the way to Cornersville 7-yard line where a fourth-down run was stuffed by the Bulldogs defense and that was the end for the Rockets, who got the ball back one more time with just over two minutes to go in the game.
They went backwards and faced a fourth-and-43 that forced a punt and the Bulldogs went in to the victory formation to claim the 10-point win and move to 2-0 on the season.
The Bulldogs (2-0) travel to Huntland (1-0 Covid win over Whitwell) in the Region 5-A opener Friday night with the Hornets riding a short two-game winning streak over the Bulldogs.
“It will be two big rivalry games in a row for us,” Randolph said. “There are a lot of emotions, but those games make you better also, so that is how we are going to look at and go to Huntland and try to get a big region win.”
The Rockets (1-1) host Loretto (1-1) in the Region 5-AA opener for both squads with Forrest owning a 4-0 record over the Mustangs since 2017.
Cornersville 0 8 0 8 — 16
Forrest 0 6 0 0 — 6
C - Cason Warner 1 run, (Caden White 2-pt. run), 2:40.
F - Christian Hammond 65 pass from Brenton Burchell, 2:28.
C- Ben Franklin 7 run, (Cason Warner 2-pt. run), 7:36.
Cornersville 218, Forrest 165.
First Downs-Cornersville 21, Forrest 5.
Rushing-Cornersville 157, Forrest 104.
Passing-Cornersville 61, Forrest 61.
Turnovers-Cornersville 1, Forrest 2.
Penalties-Cornersville 3-25, Forrest 6-58.
Cornersville-Mason Calahan 9-71, Ben Franklin 14-43-TD, Cason Warner 13-38-TD, Rhett Woodard 3-8, Caden White 8-(-3).
Forrest-Brenton Burchell 9-77, Liam Bell 6-19, Chris Davis 4-6, Tayton Swift 1-4, McCalister Wilson 1-(-2).
Cornersville Caden White 6-8-61-0-INT.
Forrest-Hunter Bennett 2-6-(-4)-0-INT.
Brenton Burchell 1-1-65-TD-0.
Cornersville-Khi Canty 1-25, Eli Welch 2-19, Blake Estes 1-9, Mason Calahan 1-8, Rhett Woodard 1-0.
Christian Hammond 1-65-TD, Brenton Burchell 1-(-1), McCalister Wilson 1-(-3).
Cornersville-Tyler Brockman 4-125-31.3.
Christian Hammond 6-221-36.8.