CORNERSVILLE — All last year, the Cornersville Bulldogs had bragging rights after downing the Forrest Rockets for the first time in 25 years.Although the Bulldogs (0-2) played an inspired …
CORNERSVILLE — All last year, the Cornersville Bulldogs had bragging rights after downing the Forrest Rockets for the first time in 25 years.
Although the Bulldogs (0-2) played an inspired second half, the Forrest Rockets (2-0) had a little too much in the tank for the Bulldogs to corral and Forrest bounced back in the win column against its rival to the south on Friday night with a 23-6 win over Cornersville.
“It’s an in-county rival. They had bragging rights all last year and it feels good to bring it back home to us,” Rocket coach Eli Stephenson said.
The Rockets took home bragging rights, largely in part to the efforts of Gavin Grissom, who connected on field goals of 30, 26 and 40 yards to help the Rockets put away Cornersville.
While the first Forrest drive of the night ended with a punt, and took barely 1:45 off the clock, Forrest took full advantage of its second drive of the night after holding the Bulldogs to a three-and-out.
After taking possession on their own 38-yard line, a steady mix of Chris Davis and Tayton Swift pushed the Rockets into the red zone before Davis capped the drive on a six-yard run with 4:31 left in the quarter to put Forrest up, 7-0, after Grissom’s successful kick after.
The Bulldogs responded and move the ball well into Rocket territory before the drive stalled near the 28-yard line and Cornersville turned the ball over on downs following an incomplete fourth-down pass.
Forrest played the clock control game on its next possession and milked nearly seven minutes of the second quarter off the clock.
While the Bulldog defense kept the Rockets out of the end zone, Grissom hit his first of three field goals on the night, coming on a 30-yard boot with 5:06.
After the score, the Rocket defense held the Bulldogs to their second three-and-out of the night, giving Forrest the ball back with just under four minutes left to pad their lead.
They did just that as Grissom split the uprights on a 26-yard field goal as time expired, giving Forrest a 13-0 lead at the half.
While the Bulldogs struggled to get the chains moving in the first half, mustering up just 52 first-half yards, Cornersville took full advantage of a Rocket turnover in the third quarter and bruising junior running back Ben Franklin cashed in on the opportunity.
With the Rockets driving into Bulldog territory, the Rockets coughed the ball up on the 15-yard line with 6:33 left in the third.
The first play following the turnover, Franklin bounced to the outside and raced 85 yards to the end zone to put the Bulldogs on the board.
Following Franklin’s jaunt, Cornersville got exactly what it needed and forced a Rocket punt with 3:42 left in the third, but fumbled the ball back to the Rockets on the first play after the punt.
Taking over on the Bulldog 30-yard line, Forrest needed just four plays to cash in on the turnover when Liam Bell punched it in the end zone from six yards out with just over a minute to go in the third.
While Cornersville played an inspired brand of defense in the second half, the Rockets added to their lead in the fourth quarter, coming on Grissom’s 40-yard field goal with 6:28 left in the game.
Even though it went down as a loss, Bulldog head coach Shelby Waddell was pleased with his team’s effort in the four-quarter battle.
“Our kids are a group of fighters. They’re tough kids. I knew we would come out and play inspired in the second half. I thought our defense played their tails off tonight. It was a lot of the same kids going both ways and special teams. They’re playing iron man football. We dressed 27 kids tonight. I can’t say enough about the effort of our kids tonight,” he said.
“They adjusted in the second half. We turned the ball over and they hit that long run with the Franklin kid. But our offense came back and responded. Our kids just played well all night long,” Stephenson said.
Tayton Swift was the driving force for the Rocket ground game, totaling 100 yards on 14 touches.
“You can’t say enough about him. He (Swift) doesn’t come off the field. He plays every down. He runs the ball for us and he runs it hard. On defense, he’s really the captain of the secondary. He’s just a hard-nosed player and that’s what I love about him,” Stephenson said.
In total, Forrest piled up 148 yards on the ground, and while they didn’t go to the air often, freshman quarterback Ryan Hill connected on a pair of key passes to move the chains, including a huge third-down conversion to Swift on a 31-yard pass reception, which set up Bell’s third-quarter touchdown.
“We don’t ask him to do too much. We’ve got to work on our pass blocking. When we asked him to make plays for us, he made plays. He’s going to make a lot of plays with his legs,” Stephenson said.
While Franklin finished with 129 yards on 10 carries for the Bulldogs, Riley Qualls got some big gains for Cornersville in the fourth quarter.
“We need to get him (Qualls) more touches. Part of it, he’s so valuable to us on defense and the job he had tonight, versus what Coach Stevenson and them do on offense, we were really trying to keep him fresh. He did a heck of a job. He’s such a hard working kid that gives his all for this community and this team. He just does everything you ask him to do,” Waddell said.
Friday’s game marked the first game following an injury to Forrest’s Brenton Burchell, who sustained a season-ending injury in last week’s opener.
“Brenton is a huge loss for us. He’s a three-year starter. It’s going to be tough to replace him, but we had a lot of young kids step up tonight,” Stephenson said.
For the Rockets, Forrest will hit the road on Friday and travel to open its region slate at Loretto, while Cornersville will host Huntland to begin the Region 5-A schedule.
Forrest 7 6 7 3 — 23
Cornersville 0 0 6 0 — 6
F — Chris Davis 6 run, (Gavin Grissom kick), 4:31.
F — Gavin Grissom 30-yard field goal, 5:06.
F — Grissom 26-yard field goal, 0:00.
C — Ben Franklin 88 run, (2pt. run failed), 6:13.
F — Eli Bell 6 run, (Grissom kick), 1:09.
F — Grissom 40 field goal, 6:28.
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