It started as just a dream for many of the young men on the 2018 Whitwell Tigers football team when they started playing “PeeWee” football — “Win a State Championship title.” It was also a dream for many fans of the Whitwell Tigers through the years to see a State Title win go down in the books for their school. What was once just a dream became a reality after the Whitwell Tigers defeated the Cornersville Bulldogs in the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Class 1A State Championship game on Saturday in Cookeville, Tennessee.
It wasn’t the high scoring, wide point spread or shut-out games that both of these teams were used to over the 2018 season. Both Whitwell and Cornersville entered the game undefeated (14-0) on the season and both were known to dominate games against many of their opponents, which proved how well-matched both teams were on both the offense and defense.
It wasn’t an easy win for Whitwell, but one that will definitely be talked about around the small town for years to come! Here’s how it played out…
First, let’s set the scene. It was wet. Very wet. The rain had been falling since late Friday night around the region and continued through the morning with very few breaks. The wind was also a factor, blowing steadily and potentially hampering any hopes for an easy passing game for either team, much less an attempt to kick a field goal with any distance.
Cornersville took the opening drive all the way to the end zone. A 3-yard touchdown by the Bulldogs was the only scoring highlight the first half. Whitwell managed to break up the extra point, making the score 6-0, which stuck into the second half.
In the third, Whitwell receiver Hudson Petty got the Tigers moving in the direction to respond to Cornersville’s score, going 36-yards down to the 19-yard line; however, the Tigers were still unable to get points on the board.
Those much-needed points finally came with just seven minutes left on the clock. On 4th and 5, Petty faked the run, giving the ball to receiver Tanner Stewart, who did the rest with a 15-yard touchdown tying things up 6-6 followed by a successful extra point, which gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Cornersville started to respond as they drove down the field with less than a minute on the clock. The wind was blowing in Whitwell’s favor though as the last Bulldogs pass put the ball in the path of Tanner Stewart’s hand as he slapped-it-down as the clock ran out and the buzzer sounded securing Whitwell’s spot in history as the first ever winners of the state title for the Tigers in addition to closing out a perfect 15-0 season.
“I’m proud for our community,” Coach Randall Boldin said. “They’ve supported us all year. I’m proud for our kids. I’m proud for anybody’s that’s worn this uniform in the past. They’ve dealt with some bad seasons so, hopefully, we send some pride back their way as well.”
Whitwell’s Hudson Petty was chosen as the game MVP for the Whitwell Tigers during the trophy presentations.
“When we were little, we talked about it. Going into high school, we talked about it. And we knew we were going to get it done our senior year…we’ve been working for this all our lives, and it’s just great for us and the community,” Petty said when interviewed by the media.
The Tigers were greeted with wishes of congratulations as their motorcade traveled home along TN-28 from neighboring towns they passed. In Dunlap, residents and many Sequatchie County faithful lined the streets just as they did as the Tigers made their trip up to Cookeville. The Dunlap Fire Department flew the Whitwell Football flag high over the roadway from their ladder truck for the motorcade to pass under.
As they reached Whitwell, crowds were compared to that of the town’s annual Labor Day celebration as fans and supporters in a town of only 1,700 along with others from neighboring communities and cities again lined the street to welcome home their State Champion Whitwell Tigers.
The Tigers along with other teams across the state who played in the various BlueCross Bowl games won’t stop for too long though. Winter always provides a chance for teams to regroup, rest, condition, and prepare for the upcoming spring practice season and get ready once again for what looks to be another exciting season for all of our teams in the Sequatchie Valley in 2019 as the season kicks-off in August.