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McKENZIE (November 3) — The McKenzie Rebels opened the first round of the TSSAA State Football Playoffs with a 31-14 win over the Cornersville Bulldogs. Despite the Bulldogs taking an early lead, the Rebels took the lead and held strong for the remainder of the game.
Looking at the numbers, McKenzie ran 61 plays for 340 total yards. Cornersville ran 41 plays accumulating 200 total yards. In passing, the Rebels had 150 yards with Junior Quarterback Tate Surber going 11 of 23 with two touchdowns. Stafford Roditis caught 5 passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs were held to 27 yards passing.
On the ground, McKenzie rushed for 190 yards. Led by Brady Brewer with 20 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. For Cornersville, they rushed for 173 yards. Leading their ground game was Senior Running Back Ben Franklin with 22 carries for 160 yards and accounting for both Bulldog touchdowns. During the regular season, Franklin rushed for 2,184 yards on 176 carries with 31 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Rebels were led by Surber with four tackles with two assists and an interception, Skyler Fornera had two tackles with one assist and a fumble recovery, KD Cunningham had two tackles, followed by Dalton Hatley with one tackle, two assists and a sack.
Cornersville received the opening kickoff. Starting from the Bulldog 35-yard line, Franklin broke free on a quick pitch around the end for the touchdown. The Bulldogs followed up with a successful two-point conversion to take the early 8-0 lead.
McKenzie started its offensive drive from the Rebel 36-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Colt Norden caught a first-down pass that resulted in a personal foul and a possible concussion taking him out of the game. The Rebels crossed midfield, and on third-and-four from the 23-yard line, Brewer picked up the rushing touchdown. Roditis added the extra point as McKenzie trailed 8-7 with under eight minutes on the clock in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs’ next drive was cut short as Blaine Woodard’s pass on second down was deflected and picked off by Ace Fisher. Deep within Cornersville territory, a facemask penalty put the Rebels at the eight-yard line on first-and-goal. Brewer added his second touchdown of the game at the 4:15 mark. Roditis’ added the PAT as McKenzie led 14-8.
The next offensive series for both teams resulted in three-and-outs.
Starting the second quarter of play, McKenzie had possession of near midfield. A horsecollar penalty on the Bulldogs put the Rebels close to the red zone. On third-and-ten from the Cornersville 22-yard line, Roditis made a leaping touchdown catch over two Bulldog defenders. With 9:12 left in the second quarter, Roditis added the extra point as McKenzie went up 21-8.
Cornersville was able to respond on the next drive. Deep within Bulldog territory, Cornersville with the help of Franklin’s ability to break free on the run was in scoring position in eight plays. On second-and-four from the McKenzie eight-yard line, Franklin was in for the touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion, the Rebels led 21-14.
McKenzie looked to keep their momentum going to close the half but a fumble recovery by Cornerville killed a promising touchdown drive.
The Rebels scored on the opening drive of the second half. Roditis and Cole Brown were able to catch first-down passes and a run by Brewer put McKenzie in scoring position. On second-and-four from the 27-yard line, Roditis caught a second touchdown pass from Surber. The PAT put McKenzie up 28-14.
The Rebel defense kept Franklin in check for much of the second half. In the fourth quarter, Surber intercepted Woodard’s pass.
McKenzie capitalized on the turnover. On fourth-and-six from the Cornersville nine-yard line, Roditis booted the 26-yard field goal, capping the game at 31-14 in favor of the Rebels.
This Friday, November 10, the Rebels (10-1) host Collinwood (7-3) at 7 p.m. The winner of that game travels to play the winner of Moore County (11-0) / Eagleville (7-4) in the quarterfinals. The winner of the quarterfinals will likely play Dresden in the semifinals which advances to the state championship round to be played on December 1 in Chattanooga.