Franklin’s 3 TD night leads ‘Dogs to playoff win

The Cornersville Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1) welcomed the Warriors of McEwen High School (7-3, 3-2) in the opening round of the 2021 TSSAA football playoffs, on the first Friday night in November underneath a clear and cold sky at “Frog Bottom”.
The Bulldogs, with a smothering defense that hemmed in, ran down and corralled McEwen’s Mr. Football semifinalist Thomas Wills, limited the Warrior quarterback to 77 yards on 15 carries.
Conversely, Ben Franklin rushed for three touchdowns and the Bulldogs overwhelmed the Warriors, 42-8.
Cornersville’s Cason Warner added a 36-yard touchdown run along with a 2-point conversion; Riley Qualls rushed for a touchdown and Blake Estes caught a 19-yard pass for a score for the Bulldogs.
“We had a great week of practice, and we need for that to carry over to next week. Come in, bust our tails, and get ready for the next step. We played a physical football game tonight, and they were not ready for that. I don’t know finesse football, all I know is how to line up and beat the guy across the line from me. I’m proud of you,” Coach Gerard Randolph told his team after the game,
Defensive lineman Barrett Powers, mainstay of the Bulldogs defense said, “We had a great team effort tonight, everybody came out fast and physical, and I can’t wait until next week at McKenzie.”
Defensive mate Cason Warner added, “We had to come out physical because we know they are a tough team. They did not take our physicality into account and they did not take it well.”
The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to defer until the second half.
Eli Welch for the Bulldogs kicked off to the Warrior 16-yard line where McEwen’s Jake Artz gathered it in, but Cornersville’s David Metcalf tackled him at the 20-yard line.
On first down for the Warriors, Wills took the ball, but Cornersville’s Bradden Hickman nailed him for a 1-yard loss.
Two plays later, McEwen’s punter James Cook punted the ball to Cornersville’s 48-yard line where the Bulldogs began a six-play drive using the running of Ben Franklin, Riley Qualls, Mason Calahan and Cason Warner with Franklin bulling over from the three-yard line.
Logan Springer’s kick after attempt clanged off the left upright, but the Bulldogs still led 6-0 with 8:03 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors could not convert for a first down on their next possession and Cook punted again, this time to the Bulldog 44-yard line and Cornersville took over for its second possession.
The Bulldogs using the bruising running of their stable of running backs of Franklin, Qualls, Calahan and Warner to move the ball to the Warrior 19-yard line.
Then, quarterback Blaine Woodard found Blake Estes all alone at the 2-yard line and Estes fell into the end zone for the touchdow.
Cason Warner rammed through the McEwen line for the 2-point conversion; with 1:26 to go in the first quarter as Cornersville then led 14-0.
The second quarter saw the Warriors began a drive to the Bulldog 27-yard line, but a Wills pass to Dalton Williams on fourth and six fell incomplete thanks to tight defense by Rhett Woodard.
The Bulldogs let the horses out of the barn on their next possession and with Franklin carrying the load, moved the ball to the McEwen 2-yard line where Riley Qualls rushed for the score and Springer nailed the PAT to push Cornersville lead to 21-0 with 6:06 left in the half.
Eli Welch pinned the Warriors back to their 15-yard line and on first down Wills was stopped in his tracks by Cornersville’s Barret Powers.
On second down, Wills’ pass was intercepted by Calahan and the Bulldogs were back in business at the McEwen 20-yard line.
Returning the favor, McEwen’s Wills intercepted Blaine Woodard’s pass intended for Blake Estes in the end zone and the Warriors took over at their own 20-yard line.
The Bulldogs defense’ hammering of the McEwen offense was taking its toll. Warriors were slow to get up as Cornersville’s Wesley Pigg, Woodard and Powers made stops, once again forcing the Warriors to punt, this time to the Bulldog 49-yard line.
After a block in the back against Cornersville, the Bulldogs began play at their own 33-yard line.
The Cornersville offense, using their bruising running game, with Franklin ripping off 10-plus yards every time he touched the ball, moved to the Warrior 8-yard line where Franklin tore through the line for the score with 23 seconds left in the half. Springer split the uprights and Cornersville pushed their lead to four scores, 28-0.
The third quarter began with Cornersville receiving the kickoff and with McEwen desperate to gain the ball attempting an onside kick, but Bradden Hickman recovered for the Bulldogs at the 49-yard line.
Four plays later, Warner took the handoff, ran to the right side, cut back to the middle, found open field and out-ran the Warrior defenders for pay dirt. 
Springer again converted the PAT and the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 35-0 with 10:07 left in the third quarter.
The Cornersville defense, taking no prisoners, forced another three and out with Cook punting from his own 15-yard line getting off a poor kick that went out of bounds at the Warrior 39-yard line.
Franklin and Warner pounded the Warrior defense with Franklin ripping off a 27-yard run to the McEwen 4-yard line.
Franklin then rammed home his third touchdown and Springer again converted; with 3:49 left in the third quarter the Bulldogs led 42-0.
Franklin added to his impressive, late-season play, and added three touchdowns for a total of eight in the last two games.
“I thought we executed well as a team and got things done,” Franklin said following the game.
Randolph then began to insert the reserves for the rest of the game and McEwen made their only score on a 7-yard run by Wills and a 2-point conversion pass to Brody Dreaden to make the score 42-8.
That score would stand up; but then, a scary moment for the Bulldog faithful.
David Metcalf, a junior on defense for the Bulldogs with 8:35 left to go in the game, lay crumpled on the ground and the medical staff was summoned to tend to the young man.
Cutting away his jersey, removing his pads and helmet
The hushed crowd watched as medical workers cut away his jersey, removed his pads and helmet, strapped him onto a board and gingerly moved him to a waiting four-wheeler to be taken off the field to the ambulance.
Cornersville will travel to far-off McKenzie for the second round of the TSSAA Playoffs to face the Rebels, who costed to a 63-12 win over Moore County. 
McEwen   0   0    0  8 — 8
Cornersville 14 14  14  0 — 42
First Quarter 
C — Ben Franklin 3 run, (Kick failed), 8:03. 
C — Blake Estes 19 pass from Blaine Woodard, (Cason Warner 2pt. run), 1:26.
Second Quarter 
C — Riley Qualls 2 run, (Logan Springer kick), 6:06.
C — Ben Franklin 8 run, (Springer kick), :23. 
Third Quarter 
C — Warner 36 run, (Springer kick), 10:07.
C — Ben Franklin 4 run, (Springer kick), 3:49. 
Fourth Quarter 
M — Thomas Wills 7 run, (Brody dreaded 2pt. pass from Wills), 7:38. 
Stats McEwen Cornersville
Number of Plays 46 46
Total Offense 142 329
Time of Possession 26:27 21:27
Rushing Attempts - Yards 22-66 41-310
Passing Completions -Attempts 10-24 1-5
Passing Yards 76 19
Passing Touchdowns 0-1 1-1
Fumbles- Lost 0-0 2-1
First Downs 9 25
First Downs- Rushing 5 22
First Downs- Passing 3 1
First Downs- Penalties 1 2
Third Down Conversions/Attempts 2/11 (18.2%) 2/4 (50%)
Fourth Down Conversions/Attempts 1/3 (33%) 1/1 (100%)
Penalties- Yards 9-75 4-45
Defensive Sacks- Yards 0-0 1-6
Punts- Average 4-31 1-34
Passing: Cornersville:
Blaine Woodard 1-4 yds, TD, Int.
Caden White 0-1, 0-yards.
Passing: McEwen
Thomas Wills 10-24, 76-yards, 1 Int.
Rushing: Cornersville
Ben Franklin 16-145 yds, 3 TD, Cason Warner 7-90 yds, TD, Mason Calahan 4–74 yds, Riley Qualls 5-7 yds, TD, Rhett Woodard 1-5 yds, Jonathan Zuniga 2-4 yds, Caden White 2-0 yds, Austin King 3- (-3) yds., Blaine Woodard 1 – (-12).
Rushing: McEwen
Thomas Wills 15 - 77 yds, TD.
Receiving – Cornersville:
Blake Estes 1-19 yds, TD.
Receiving – McEwen:
Brody Dreaden 2-33 yds.
Defensive Stats: Cornersville
Jonathon Zuniga 5, Blake Estes 4, R. Woodard 3.5, Barrett Powers 3.5, Hunter Fitzgerald 3.5, M. Callahan 3, Riley Gillit 2.5, David Metcalf 2, Eli Welch 1.5, Cason Warner 1.5, Riley Qualls 1.5, Wesley Pigg 1.5, Bradden Hickman 1, Ben Franklin 1, Tyler Brockman 1, Zac McCombs 1, Xander Campbell 1, Blaine Woodard .5, Beau Shillig .5.
Kicking Stats: Cornersville
Logan Springer – Extra Point – 4.
Tyler Brockman, Punt 1-34 yards.
Punt Return: Cornersville

Calahan 1 - 0 yds. 


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