High expectations remain in Cornersville

Anthony S. Puca Sports Editor
Posted 8/19/20

Randolph elevates Bulldogs to elite status

Cornersville’s head coach Gerard Randolph is entering his sixth season in Frog Bottom and after his first two years of setting the program foundation, the Bulldogs are now one of the top teams in Class A and a squad nobody wants to play.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone in the program,” Randolph said. “Building a championship program has to be the mentality of everybody involved, not only that you have to have guys that can play the game at a high level, and also it takes some luck.”

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High expectations remain in Cornersville

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Randolph elevates Bulldogs to elite status

Cornersville’s head coach Gerard Randolph is entering his sixth season in Frog Bottom and after his first two years of setting the program foundation, the Bulldogs are now one of the top teams in Class A and a squad nobody wants to play.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone in the program,” Randolph said. “Building a championship program has to be the mentality of everybody involved, not only that you have to have guys that can play the game at a high level, and also it takes some luck.”

“I want our guys to expect to win every time that they take the field. It may sound crazy, but this is the way it should be. We want expectations to be high. We expect to put a good product on the field every Friday night.”

Cornersville just missed winning the Class A state title in 2017 and 2018, finishing as state runner-up both seasons and after losing almost the entire starting squad to graduation, the Bulldogs started out 0-2 before winning seven out of their next eight games.

The only blemish along the way was a 35-7 loss at Huntland that denied the Bulldogs a third straight Region 5-A title.

Cornersville blasted Collinwood in the first round of the playoffs before travelling to Huntingdon where the Mustangs exacted their revenge from back-to-back season ending playoff losses to the Bulldogs via a 54-7 thrashing.

“We were very fortunate to get to that 8-4 record,” Randolph said. “We talk about focus a bunch as a coaching staff. I think that was a problem for us at the beginning of last year.”

“We have to focus up, and be ready to compete at a high level every time that we get the opportunity.”

COVID concerns and preparation

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a cloud of doubt as to whether football will even be played this fall, but Randolph and the Bulldogs have been preparing just like they always do with a few health related twists.

“As a competitor you never want to hear that it's a chance that you will not be able to compete at the game that you love, and that your guys have worked so hard to be able to compete at,” Randolph said. “Not only that, you have that sad feeling for your seniors that have been here for the long haul, and they deserve to be able to play, and as a coach you somewhat understand the circumstances, but would love for those seniors to be able to finish their high school careers on the football field.”

A summer of not knowing turned in to a moment of joy when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee gave the green light for full contact and the start of the regular season on time.

“It was an awesome feeling once they said we would play, and just seeing the guy's faces light up with joy makes you happy for them as a coach,” Randolph said. “Honestly, everything in me wants to be able to play a full season, but it is a lot of uncertainty out there. I'm going to be positive, and keep preparing, but things can change in a hurry.”

Things certainly look different and the precautions laid forth by the governor and the TSSAA have complicated the routines.

“As a team standpoint we will continue to take temps, ask questions, and keep abiding by all the guidelines put forth by the TSSAA and the CDC,” Randolph stated. “How we hydrate the players will be quite different this year. They are asking that the players not share water bottles, towels, etc. So several things will be different this year going into our first contest.”

Positive COVID-19 test results on prep football teams have been recorded around the state and the Marshall County School Board, along with federal, state and local health officials have set the guidelines in the event a student or coach is either exposed to, or contracts the virus.

“If a player or coach tests positive we will have to follow our rubric that was set forth by our board and local health department,” Randolph said. “If you test positive then we will contact trace and see who has been exposed, and adhere to the guidelines from the local health department.”

Hungry ‘Dawgs’ ready to dine

The team is ready to get things going and the Bulldogs will get that chance when they travel to Unionville Friday night for their season opener.

“I am hoping to step on the field and take a deep breath, and take it in all that special high energy moment when they take the field for the first time,” Randolph said. “I just want my guys to be healthy and get the chance to compete on Friday nights. This sport is pretty special and it teaches a lot of teamwork and hard work.”

They would also like to return the favor to the Vikings, who beat Cornersville in a close 20-17 contest at Frog Bottom last season to put the Bulldogs behind the early eight-ball.

“After watching the film from last year we made too many mental mistakes, and they were more physical than us,” Randolph said. “If we expect to win this year we will need to be focused, and be the more physical team.”

“The team that makes the fewest mistakes and is more physical will win this football game.”

Week 2 is also a revenge game for the Bulldogs, but the opponent will be stouter than Unionville as Cornersville entertains a much-improved Eagleville squad for the 2020 home opener at Frog Bottom.

The Eagles beat the Bulldogs 27-15 last year and are 4-1 versus Cornersville in the last five meetings dating back to 2003.

A Week 3 home matchup versus Moore County kicks off the region slate for the Bulldogs, who have won the last four games in a row over the Raiders after going 1-13 versus Lynchburg since 2001.

“Moore County returns several senior's from last year's team,” Randolph said. “They have been picked to be one of the front runners in the region this year.”

“They have a new coach (Kris White), and I think he will be a spread guy, and try to get it to several of his seniors.”

White was an assistant for Thomas McDaniel at Moore County for one season in 2007 when the Raiders went 7-4.

White, whose wife is from Moore County and is a former Raiderettes’ basketball coach, was the defensive assistant coach at Knoxville Catholic the past five years, winning state titles in 2015 and 2017. He also coached at Riverdale and Oakland where he was on staffs that won state championships.

The Bulldogs embark on a three-game road swing after the Moore County game, beginning with a trip to Grace Christian-Franklin where they take on a former region foe.

The Eagles moved to Divison II last season after spending four years as a Class A Region 4-A member.

The two teams kept on playing and Cornersville blasted the Eagles 50-13 in 2019 to get their first win of the season.

A Week 4 trip to Mt. Pleasant will be another huge game in the 20th matchup between the two schools since 2001.

Cornersville has also turned the tables on the Tigers, winning four straight after losing 15 games in a row to the Maury County squad.

Cornersville shut out the Tigers 20-0 at Frog Bottom last year.

“I've always said that Region 5-1A is the strongest region in Class A football, and I truly believe that,” Randolph said. “Mt. Pleasant is another team that will be very talented this year. They have a ton of athleticism coming back, and they will be tough.”

The Bulldogs finish the midterm road swing with a trip to Murfreesboro to take on the Divison II MTCS Cougars, who also left Class A last year.

The Bulldogs are 2-2 versus MTCS since 2005, including a close 22-14 victory last year.

It’s back to the region grind in Week 7 as the Bulldogs host Fayetteville, who had to forfeit five games last year for using an ineligible player, including the matchup versus Cornersville.

“Fayetteville lost several seniors from last year's team, but they have had some really good middle school teams the last three or four years, and they are not short of athletes in the program,” Randolph said. “I expect them to be athletic and solid again.”

In Week 8 Cornersville travels to Richland, where they have not lost since 2012 and the Bulldogs have won seven straight in the Battle of Buford Station, including a 41-21 home win last year.

“Richland returns several of their main core of offensive threats from last year,” Randolph said “Their numbers have improved every year, and look for them to have more depth to compete.”

The Week 9 game versus Huntland could be for all the region marbles once again and Randolph knows it will be a dogfight.

“Huntland will be strong again this year,” Randolph said. “They have their entire starting line back with a bruising running back (Cameron Reed) to go with it.”

Reed amassed 285 yards and scored four touchdowns in the blowout win over Cornersville last year.

The regular season finale should be a win versus a Zion Christian team that has not posted a winning record since 2009.

The Bulldogs hold a 5-2 overall mark over the Eagles, but the two teams have not met since 2014.

Asked what his expectations for the season are, Randolph said, “As always I expect our team to go out and play at a high level each and every Friday night. “With so much going on, I just hope we can keep everybody healthy, and get the opportunity to compete on Friday nights.”

Experienced offense ready to put up big numbers

The Cornersville offense will be hard to stop this season if things fall in to place on a young offensive line.

The Bulldogs are loaded with skill players as they return the entire starting backfield from a year ago.

The senior Jackson Farler (2019 All-Region) will return at quarterback and he will have a loaded backfield to work with as a pair of 2019 all-region runners in senior classmates Brady Calahan and Alex Hillard l split the halfback duties and juniors Cason Warner and Rhett Woodard return as a pair of bruising fullbacks.

Farler’s junior season was a good one as he completed 65-of-128 passes for 858 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Farler also ran 155 yards and five TDs.

“We feel really good about the depth in our backfield this year,” Randolph said. “Both (fullbacks) are very versatile and can run the ball like tailbacks, and both are very good blockers, and punishing runners.

Sophomores Mason Calahan and Riley Qualls, and freshman Ben Franklin will also see time in the backfield and look out for sophomore Nick Nuenswander, who could be the big surprise of the season.

Returning starter Tanner Edwards (junior) and senior Garrett Alder will be the main targets for Farler.

Brady Calahan was the leading rusher in 2019, picking 904 yards on 154 carries and a team-leading 10 touchdowns.

Warner was next with 616 yards on 11 touches and eight touchdowns, Hilliard ran for 304 yards and four TDs, and Woodard had 132 yards and two scores.

Freshman Beau Shillig and junior Hunter Fitzgerald will also be in the mix at the wide receiver position.

Brady Calahan also led the squad in receptions with 17 catches for 232 yards, while Hilliard had six catches that went for 158 and one touchdown, and Edwards caught 13 balls for 105 yards.

The big question comes on the offensive line where the Bulldogs must replace four seniors from last year.

Senior Boone Solomon will get the start at right tackle, junior Barrett Powers will get the starting nod at left guard, junior Blake Jones will start at right guard, and sophomore Bradden Hickman will get the nod at left tackle.

Junior Sam Mitchell is the front runner for the starting nod at center.

Defense also in great shape

On defense, Cornersville is also in good shape with six starters returning from last year's unit.

Senior linebacker Tracy Wood (2019 All-Region) and Woodard will man the inside positions and Qualls will be at the Sam (Bandit) spot.

Hillard is the only returning starter in the secondary and Alder will play alongside Hilliard at the left cornerback spot.

Two new safeties take the field this season as Fitzgerald and sophomore Mason Calahan break in to the starting lineup.

Senior Trenton Posey will start at the weak side defensive end position and in the trenches, junior Blake Jones will start at nose, while Powers and Hickman round out the rest of the defensive front. Freshmen Riley Gillit, Wesley Pigg, Blaine Woodard, and senior Brady Calahan could all see time on the defensive side of the ball.

The five leading returning tacklers are, Woodard (50), Wood (33), Warner (27.5), Posey (20), and Jones (13).

Powers had one fumble recovery for a touchdown, Posey recovered two fumbles, and Brady Calahan had one.

Hilliard is the lone returner with an interception as he had two picks last year.

Williams brings experience to kicking game

Junior Jackson Williams will once again handle the placekicking and punting duties for the Bulldogs.

Williams made 3-of-5 field goals and went 20-for-26 in extra point boots.

Hillard led the squad in kickoff returns, gaining 379 yards on 13 tries and he found his way in to the end zone one time from 64 yards out.

Brady Calahan had 178 kickoff return yards and led the team with 156 yards in punt returns.

Date Opponent Site

August 21 Community Away

August 28 Eagleville Home

September 4 Moore County Home

September 11 Grace Christian Away

September 18 Mt. Pleasant Away

September 25 MTCS Away

October 2 Fayetteville Home

October 9 Bye

October 16 Richland Away

October 23 Huntland Home

October 30 Zion Christian Away

*All games 7 p.m.

2020 Cornersville Roster

No. Name Grade Position

2 Riley Qualls 10 RB/LB

3 J.C Spray 11 WR/DB

4 Cason Warner 11 FB/DL

5 Rhett Woodard 11 RB/LB

6 Hunter Fitzgerald 11 WR/DB

7 Jackson Farler 12 QB/DB

8 Mason Calahan 10 RB/DB

9 Blaine Woodard 9 QB/DB

10 Caden White 10 QB/DB

11 Alex Hillard 12 RB/DB

12 Jackson Williams 11 K/P

14 Nick Nuenswander 10 RB/DB

15 Wesley Pigg 9 FB/LB

19 Blake Estes 10 WR/DB

20 Kale Adcox 9 WR/DB

21 Riley Gillit 9 WR/LB

22 Noah Hunnicutt 9 WR/DB

24 Kaleb Courtemanche 9 WR/LB

25 Skylar Davis 10 WR/DB

27Trenton Stroud 12 TE/DL

32 Brady Calahan 12 RB/LB

33 Ben Franklin 9 FB/DL

34 Austin King 9 RB/DB

38 Jonathan Zuniga 9 RB/LB

40 Eli Welch 11 TE/DL

44 Tracy Wood 12 OL/LB

48 Tyler Brockman 10 RB/LB

50 John M. Jeter 10 OL/LB

51 Sam Mitchell 11 OL/DL

52 Logan Hinzman 11 OL/LB

54 Barrett Powers 11 OL/DL

55 Hunter McNeese 10 OL/DL

56 Bradden Hickman 10 OL/DL

57 Trenton Posey 12 OL/DL

58 Xander Campbell 10 OL/DL

63 Trenten Walker 9 OL/DL

65 Peyton Cherry 9 OL/DL

66 Peyton Hunnicutt 9 OL/DL

70 Blake Jones 11 OL/DL

74 Boone Solomon 12 OL/DL

75 Jake Welch 9 OL/DL

76 Caden Dunn 11 OL/DL

77 David Metcalf 10 OL/DL

80 Jimmy Miller 12 TE/DL

81 Bo Schilling 9 WR/LB

83 Tanner Edwards 11 WR/LB

84 Garrett Alder 12 WR/DB

Gerard Randolph: Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator (6th year, 43-20 overall, 24-9 region, 9-4 postseason, 2 region titles, 2 Class A state runner up finishes (2017 and 2018).

Eliot Cook: Defensive Coordinator

Sam Hubbell: Offensive Lineman

Bradley Woodard: Offensive Lineman

Louis Scheuchenzuber: WR/OLB Coach

John Conklin: RB/ILB Coach

Andy Woodard: ILB Coach

Henlee Mitchell: QB Coach

Jason Starr: Defensive Lineman

Mangers: Carmon Estes, Anna Gibson, Emma Rasnake, Gracie Luna, Clara Jean Thompson, Annie Martin.

Trainer: Lindsey Vendever

Principal: Brent Adcox

Athletic Director: Eric Crabtree

Cheerleading Coach: Misty Woodard

Assistant: Jessica Luna

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